Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - NGO appeals verdict in ‘defamation’ case

NGO appeals verdict in ‘defamation’ case

Equitable Cambodia’s Eang Vuthy visits a land dispute community in Phnom Penh in 2012.
Equitable Cambodia’s Eang Vuthy visits a land dispute community in Phnom Penh in 2012. Chhay Channyda

NGO appeals verdict in ‘defamation’ case

The Appeal Court on Friday heard a challenge from land rights NGO Equitable Cambodia (EC) to a defamation conviction following the termination of one of its staffers, Chan Vichet, with the prosecutor and presiding judge suggesting that there were no apparent grounds for the complaint.

Last year, Equitable Cambodia Executive Director Eang Vuthy and staffers Chheang Phea and Phen Kimsong were found guilty of public defamation by a Phnom Penh court over an internal memo circulated among the three regarding Vichet’s conduct.

Vichet worked for Equitable Cambodia and with local communities affected by land evictions related to ruling party Senator Ly Yong Phat’s firm, Phnom Penh Sugar Company, in Kampong Speu province. However, community members alleged that Vichet had switched over to working for the sugar company, leading to his dismissal from the NGO.

At Friday’s hearing, both presiding Judge Nhoung Thol and Prosecutor Nget Sarath said that public defamation was only possible if the EC staffers’ email was indeed public.

“There is no point to show that three accused committed public defamation, because a public defamation charge means that it defames someone in the public,” Sarath said.

“At the municipal court, the prosecutor also made the conclusion that there was no evidence against the accused,” Sarath added, referring to Phnom Penh court Prosecutor Seng Heang last year.

Kimsong and Vichet were absent from Friday’s hearing, with Judge Thol saying that the latter’s lawyer, Sao Bonat, was not representing Vichet in the Appeal Court.

EC’s Vuthy maintained that a warning letter and termination letter for Vichet had been kept confidential, saying it was the plaintiff himself who had gone public with the documents.

“Even though the dismissal letter we put in an envelope as well as warning letter in envelope. After we warned him, he then had a private meeting and also posted online,” he said before court.

Reached by phone yesterday, Vichet claimed that he had not received a summons for the hearing and alleged some sort of “arrangement” in the case.

“I did not receive the summons so all the decisions from the court is arranged, and there is an irregularity in this hearing,” he said, adding he would file a complaint with the Supreme Council of Magistracy and Anti-Corruption Unit.
A verdict is due January 12.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry issues warning over coronavirus outbreak

    The Ministry of Health on Wednesday asked the public to be on “high alert” as a new virus wreaks havoc across Asia. However, no cases have been reported in the Kingdom thus far. The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has raised the alarm for its similarity to

  • First case of coronavirus reported in the Kingdom

    Cambodia reported its first case of the deadly 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on Monday, Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng announced. He said medical specialists detected the virus in a Chinese tourist in Sihanoukville. The minister said Jia Jianhua, 60, travelled from Wuhan city, where the outbreak

  • PM urges precaution amid virus outbreak

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday called on all Cambodians to bump up precautions to avoid contracting the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that has already killed more than 50 people in China. The prime minister told the public to remain calm but alert about the possibility of

  • Gov’t slams NGO over 2019 corruption report

    The government on Thursday slammed a report that described the Kingdom as highly corrupt. Government spokesperson Phay Siphan dismissed the latest Transparency International (TI) report as “just an advertisement of NGOs to promote their own interests”. Released on Thursday, the report puts Cambodia near the

  • No power shortages next dry season, says energy minister

    Minister of Mines and Energy Suy Sem has assured the public that Cambodia will not suffer power shortages during the next dry season. Speaking on local TV on Tuesday, Sem projected a rise in power demand during 2020’s dry season – which starts in November and

  • App to connect farmers to millions

    The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has soft-launched a mobile app that connects farmers with potential buyers and gives them access to critical market information. The ministry’s Agriculture Marketing Office chief Meach Yady said the ‘CamAgriMarket’ app gives farmers a platform to showcase