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

  • Prince injured, wife dies after accident

    THE wife of former First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh, Ouk Phalla, 39, died while the prince was “severely” injured following a road accident in Preah Sihanouk province’s Prey Nub district on Sunday morning, officials said. Rananriddh, who is also the president of the Funcinpec

  • Bun Heang mocks US, threatens its citizens in scathing open letter

    After being hit with sanctions from the US Department of Treasury, Cambodian General Hing Bun Heang said he would retaliate against any US national who does not respect his country’s sovereignty, has ambitions to invade Cambodia or incites “traitors” in the Kingdom to do

  • Police warn boycott FB group involved in the “Clean Fingers Campaign”

    Police said on Tuesday that they will pick up members of a Facebook group involved in the “Clean Fingers Campaign” that promotes a boycott of next month’s national elections. However, police merely planned to “educate” the group for now, but warned that if the

  • Ranariddh 'seriously injured', his wife dies in accident in Preah Sihanouk

    THE wife of former first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh has died. Ouk Phalla succumbed to injuries sustained in a traffic accident on National Road 4 in Preah Sihanouk’s Prey Nub district this morning. She and the prince were immediately rushed to the Preah Sihanouk