Hun Sen and Funcinpec will file lawsuits against former Deputy Prime Minister Lu Lay Sreng following the leak of a private phone conversation in which he disparaged the King and accused Funcinpec of taking money to accept the opposition’s National Assembly seats in the event of its dissolution.
On Saturday, anti-opposition Facebook page Seiha published a recording of a conversation between former Funcinpec officials Lay Sreng and Ky Lum Ang, in which they discussed Lay Sreng’s plan to meet with King Norodom Sihamoni and ask him to relieve political tensions in the Kingdom.
“If he doesn’t dare to do so, abdicate! Let another do it,” Lay Sreng said, going on to call the King “a castrated chicken”.
Seiha has a long history of leaking private conversations, texts and emails damaging to opponents of the Cambodian People’s Party, many of which are subsequently republished by government mouthpiece Fresh News.
In the conversation, Lay Sreng also accused Funcinpec of taking $1 million from the CPP in exchange for filing a complaint requesting the dissolution of the beleaguered Cambodia National Rescue Party’s and for agreeing to accept the bulk of their parliamentary seats once the party is dissolved. “My goodness! They wear nice suits but aren’t even ashamed to take those seats,” he exclaimed.
“This idiot prince is worse . . . I cannot stand it anymore; he is too cheap,” Lay Sreng said, referring to Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
After the leak, Lum Ang called Lay Sreng again, asking him to clarify that she was not involved. That conversation was also leaked by Seiha. Lay Sreng apologised on Facebook later that same day.
“What I said was wrong, I would like to say sorry to the King, to Samdech [Hun Sen] . . . Please all, forgive me,” he wrote.
But during a speech yesterday on Koh Pich, Hun Sen said he would not forgive him.
“Now, don’t run, don’t run. I would like to send my message to Lu Lay Sreng to tell you that the prince and I will sue you . . . You say sorry to the King and Samdech Hun Sen, but I don’t pardon you because you are too insolent,” the premier said.
Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, said yesterday that he had “received instruction from Samdech Techo [Hun Sen], and I am preparing the complaint . . . This is public defamation of him.”
Funcinpec spokesman Nheb Bun Chin also confirmed a lawsuit was in the works.
“He said the prime minister gave $1 million to Funcinpec, which is not really true,” Bun Chin said, adding the party would also sue over the comments about the King.
The National Assembly recently passed a series of amendments allowing the redistribution of the CNRP’s seats to minor parties in the event of its dissolution. Funcinpec, who filed one of the initial lawsuits to dissolve CNRP, would receive 41 of the CNRP’s 55 seats, an arrangement that has prompted accusations of a political deal.
“He doesn’t understand he’s playing with fire,” Bun Chin said, adding Lum Ang would likely be named as an accomplice.“The Constitution is clear already – don’t talk about his majesty,” he added.
The Constitution, however, is not particularly clear. Stating only that “the Person of the King shall be inviolable”, the document does not elaborate on what precisely that means or whether such a violation carries any punishment.
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said there is no law banning insults to the King. Moreover, he said, any private conversation cannot be grounds for public insult or defamation.
Political analyst Meas Nee said the public should be focusing on how and why private conversations were being leaked, rather than what was said. “It is prohibited by the law, but there is becoming a culture where it is OK to leak conversations,” he said.
Calling Fresh News “the government media”, Nee said it is possible that the dual lawsuit is a sign of a continuing partnership between Funcinpec and the CPP.
Lay Sreng and Lum Ang could not be reached yesterday.
Meanwhile, Um Daravuth, adviser to the royal family, yesterday said, “The King doesn’t touch on politics. He is the father of all Cambodians. We can make requests to him, but we must not criticise him,” he said, adding that he did not know if the royal family would take additional action.