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Old vote kindles fresh outrage for LDP head

LDP leader Khem Veasna speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in May in Kandal’s Takhmao town.
LDP leader Khem Veasna speaks to supporters during a campaign rally in May in Kandal’s Takhmao town. Heng Chivoan

Old vote kindles fresh outrage for LDP head

League for Democracy Party (LDP) leader and eccentric firebrand Khem Veasna has demanded that Facebook users stop making references to his support of a controversial 2005 border treaty with Vietnam or else face legal action.

In 2005, Veasna, who then still occupied a seat in the National Assembly despite his recent dismissal from the Sam Rainsy Party, joined a Cambodian People’s Party and Funcinpec coalition approving a border treaty with Vietnam that SRP lawmakers criticised as a threat to Cambodia’s territorial integrity.

So controversial was the agreement that when King Norodom Sihamoni faced pressure not to sign off on the treaty, Hun Sen publicly suggested he might abolish the monarchy.

Accusing unnamed Facebook users who apparently referenced his role in approving the treaty of “ruining the social environment” by trying to tarnish his reputation, Veasna appealed to his supporters in a post on Sunday to “launch a massive campaign against them . . . [and] take them to court so they do not pollute the Cambodian society”.

This prompted a VOD article titled Khem Veasna launched a massive campaign to sue critics, with Veasna on Monday addressing a letter to the news outlet arguing that he did not target critics, but rather those attempting to slander him.

Pov Meta, the VOD reporter who wrote the article, said he did not retract the story or the headline, but instead wrote another piece clarifying the article’s meaning.

Veasna, who could not be reached for comment, has not yet confirmed the filing of any lawsuits. LDP Party Secretary Chin Thon said LDP members were in the process of identifying social media users who referred to Veasna’s support for the 2005 agreement. Thon said that while he could not confirm the names of the users in question, four had already been identified. .

Ou Virak, a political analyst and head of the think tank Future Forum, said the lawsuits will likely prove fruitless. “He wouldn’t have a chance to clear his name by filing the lawsuits against those who basically just repeated what was reported [in 2005],” Virak said.

Should Veasna move forward with any lawsuits, they would add to a legally animated year for the LDP leader, who last June was sued by a former newspaper publisher for posting a Facebook video in which he called Khmer people “dogs” and declared his intention to build a new society.

Additional reporting by Martin de Bourmont

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