Sourn Serey Ratha, the formerly self-exiled president of the new Khmer Power Party, said yesterday that he was preparing to sue Foreign Minister Hor Namhong for defamation for insinuating last week that Ratha was a “terrorist”, an accusation the government had long levelled at the activist before his return to Cambodia.
Ratha said yesterday that Namhong had made the remarks to the press following a meeting at the US Embassy on December 7 in the midst of comments regarding newly formed parties, calling the KPP “a party, which has as its leader a terrorist mastermind”.
“For this point, I decided to sue him for defamation and inciting people to discriminate against the Khmer Power Party, because from the beginning, we haven’t been a terrorist organisation or the members of a terrorist group,” Ratha said, adding that he planned to file his suit on Monday at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
“So what he has said was not true and was an act of inciting discrimination against the Khmer Power Party in order to make supporters and others scared of supporting the Khmer Power Party,” he said.
He said the party would discuss whether to seek a financial remedy at a meeting on Friday at their Toul Kork headquarters.
Ratha said he did not expect a Cambodian court to rule in his favour but hoped the lawsuit would highlight the government’s control over the judiciary, an assertion made by numerous reports, including a recent study by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute.
Responding yesterday, Hor Namhong acknowledged making the comments about Ratha in relation to his past run-in with the law, but said he recognised the KPP leader’s right to return to politics.
Clarifying the context of his remarks, Namhong said had referred to Ratha while explaining that national elections could go ahead without opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who remains in self-imposed exile to avoid a recently-resurrected prison sentence for defaming Namhong in 2008.
“I . . . said that Mr Mam Sonando, president of Beehive Radio Station and president of the Beehive Democratic Society Party and the . . . [Grassroots Democracy Party] and Mr Sourn Serey Ratha, the president of Khmer Power Party, will also participate, meaning there will be no problems with elections.”