Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Former deputy PM Lu Lay Sreng convicted of 'defamation'

Former deputy PM Lu Lay Sreng convicted of 'defamation'

Lu Lay Sreng during an interview with Radio Free Asia. RFA
Lu Lay Sreng during an interview with Radio Free Asia. RFA

Former deputy PM Lu Lay Sreng convicted of 'defamation'

Former Funcinpec official and ex-Deputy Prime Minister Lu Lay Sreng was found guilty in absentia of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen today for comments made in a private phone conversation that was secretly recorded and disseminated without his knowledge.

In the leaked phone call, Lay Sreng alleged that Prime Minister Hun Sen had paid the royalist Funcinpec party to take vacant National Assembly seats following the widely decried dissolution of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party. Despite defamation being defined as public speech, and the fact that Lay Sreng's remarks were private and surreptitiously recorded, the 77-year-old was ordered to pay 500 million riel (about $125,000) to Hun Sen.

Lay Sreng, who fled to the US in October, also called King Norodom Sihamoni a “castrated chicken” during the call for remaining silent on the political crackdown.

The conversation was leaked online by the anonymous pro-government social media personality “Seiha”, who has been behind numerous other high-profile leaks seen as damaging to ruling party opponents.

“What Lu Lay Sreng said was done with ill intentions to harm the reputation of Samdech Hun Sen,” Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, said at court yesterday. “The conversation was private, but when it was posted to Facebook by Seiha, the public could hear it."

Judge Y Thavrak delivered the verdict, ordering Lay Sreng to pay not only the 500 million riel in damages, but also an additional court fine of 8 million riel (about $2,000).

Chak Sopheap, director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the Cambodian Criminal Code is “unequivocal” in defining defamation as comments “intended for the public”.

“The use of defamation charges is a tool commonly used throughout the world to silence critics, be they journalists, political opponents, analysts or human rights defenders. Sadly, Cambodia is no exception,” she added.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said the verdict “will set yet another chilling precedent that threatens free speech across the country”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia unveils new quarantine regulations

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Cambodia sets new Covid-19 quarantine rules

    The government has modified Covid-19 quarantine requirements, shortening the duration for, among others, Cambodian officials, foreign diplomats and delegations, investors and inbound travellers in general. According to an official notice signed by Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng late on October 16, quarantine length for Cambodian

  • Hun Sen: Cambodia set to fully reopen

    Prime Minister Hun Sen concludes that the October 5-7 Pchum Ben public holiday, during which many people either flocked to their hometowns for family reunion or gathered at tourist attractions across the country, has not caused an outbreak of Covid-19. In a special address to

  • Will Evergrande change the way Chinese developers do business in Cambodia?

    China’s property sector policy has exposed the grim financial condition of real estate developers including those operating in Cambodia, which raises questions over the viability of their projects and business going forward The dark blue netting draping over one of Yuetai Group Co Ltd’

  • Cambodia resumes issuance of tourist visas

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has announced the resumption of its tourist visa and visa exemption programme after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In a letter dated October 20 and addressed to foreign embassies and consulates, foreign minister Prak Sokhonn

  • S’ville set to turn into ‘second Shenzhen’

    The Ministry of Economy and Finance has awarded a master plan consultancy contract to top Chinese institute for the development and transformation of Preah Sihanouk province into a “Model Multi-Purpose Special Economic Zone”, Southeast Asia’s next logistics and resort hub and innovation centre. The