Ex-Funcinpec official Lu Lay Sreng doubled down on criticisms of his former party from abroad over the weekend, accusing the royalist party’s president, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, of taking bribes when he was prime minister, prompting promises of another lawsuit.
Lay Sreng, a former deputy prime minister, fled Cambodia last month, after Prime Minister Hun Sen and Funcinpec officials announced their intention to sue him over remarks made in a leaked, secretly recorded phone conversation.
In the conversation, Lay Sreng called King Norodom Sihamoni a “castrated chicken” for failing to address the nation’s deteriorating political situation, and accused Funcinpec of taking money from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party to take the bulk of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party’s National Assembly seats in the event of its dissolution.
He was subsequently sued for defamation and insulting the King, despite the fact that defamatory comments must be made publicly, and insulting the King is not in the Criminal Code.
“He defamed [Hun Sen], saying he gave money to Funcinpec members $20,000 each” to take the seats, Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, said outside court yesterday after submitting evidence.
But in an interview with Radio Free Asia in the US on Sunday, Lay Sreng clarified that he had accused Ranariddh himself of demanding $20,000 from each aspiring Funcinpec National Assembly member, and doubled down on the accusations, going on to say Ranariddh demanded payments for official positions when he was prime minister in the 1990s.
“I said Samdech Hun Sen gave the opportunity to the prince to collect money again . . . This party, when preparing the positions, it deals with money,” he told RFA.
“I was in Funcinpec from the beginning. When he was in power, it was $100,000 for a provincial governor position,” Lay Sreng added.
Nheb Bun Chin, spokesman for Funcinpec, said yesterday that the party would file another defamation lawsuit over the new comments.
“I don’t understand why Lu Lay Sreng dared to say that. This would mean that he used to take that money; that’s why he knew that,” said Bun Chin.
“It is unjust. He is 80 years old now . . . At this age, how can he say such a lie?” Bun Chin added.
However, Sam Rainsy, the self-exiled former CNRP president and one-time Funcinpec minister of finance, backed Lay Sreng’s allegations.
“Prince Norodom Ranariddh, when he was ‘first’ Prime Minister and speaker of the National Assembly, often asked money [bribes] from those who sought positions,” Rainsy said via email yesterday.
Lay Sreng was dismissive of his upcoming court case in the interview, calling the Cambodian judiciary a “remote control court” and a “dollar court”. In a separate video uploaded to Facebook, he promised to return to Cambodia “soon”, although it remained unclear if he intends to honour his November 27 summons for the case.