A day after prominent political commentator Ou Virak was slapped with a defamation complaint, a Cambodian People’s Party spokesman said the filing of cases against people who maligned the party would be limited to Virak – for now.
Sok Eysan, himself a complainant in the case, said that while no other suits were planned at the moment, the party would keep an eye out for analysts and commentators who, as in Virak’s case, allegedly twisted the truth and hurt the CPP’s dignity.
“We are just looking to see if anyone says something and see if it matches our freedom of expression or it’s over the limit,” he said. “Ou Virak went over the limit, and the CPP took it seriously.”
He also reiterated his position, stated in the complaint he filed with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday, that Virak wrongly claimed in an interview with Radio Free Asia that the CPP played a role in the controversy surrounding an alleged extramarital affair between CNRP acting president Kem Sokha and 24-year-old salon worker Khom Chandaraty.
Picking up from a Facebook post on Monday, Prime Minister Hun Sen, speaking at the inauguration of a road in Banteay Meanchey yesterday, repeated his threat to initiate legal action against people he believed had overstepped the limits of free expression.
“I have already told you that your freedom has limits in relation to others’ freedoms,” he said. “You must remember clearly all these points – they have rights, but we also have rights.”
Despite facing a claim for $100,000 in the defamation suit, Virak, the founder of the Future Forum think tank, said he would continue to express his opinion on matters that affected the country and help mould public discourse.
His only regret was the spotlight had shifted to him and away from the issues Cambodia needed to deal with.
“The concentration should not be on me but more about highlighting the need for a public space for debate,” he said.
Grassroots political activist Kem Ley, who has also been outspoken about the political nature of the Kem Sokha scandal, said he was not interested in the CPP’s threat and would instead ramp up his activities to increase public criticism of the party’s actions.
“While people are following this issue, we must increase our activity to analyse, debate and criticise the government over its good and bad actions to increase public awareness,” Ley said.