A Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor has formally charged opposition leader Sam Rainsy over a defamation suit brought by National Assembly president Heng Samrin, according to the plaintiff’s lawyer.
Adding more weight to the slew of legal cases hanging over the CNRP president’s head, prosecutor Vong Bun Visoth forwarded the case to city court judge Ros Piseth “a few days ago” after Rainsy, living in self-imposed exile in France, failed to answer two summonses to contest the allegations, said Ky Tech, lawyer for Samrin.
“The trial may start in three months, probably in June,” Tech said.
Samrin’s complaint relates to a Facebook post by Rainsy in December, which suggested the 1980s regime led initially by Samrin – a forerunner to the Cambodian People’s Party – had indicted late King Norodom Sihanouk of being a traitor and sentenced him, in absentia, to death in a show trial.
Rainsy replied that though the CPP did not actually sentence Sihanouk to death, they killed the popular monarch “politically and morally” by establishing their government in 1979.
He also called on Samrin to explain the legal merits of the case, given he wasn’t named in the post.
Yesterday, judge Piseth said he was yet to receive the dossier.
At the time Samrin’s suit was lodged, Rainsy had already decided not to return to Cambodia after the court ordered he serve a long-dormant two-year prison sentence for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008.
That conviction, delivered in 2011, also included an incitement charge.
Rainsy also faces a potential 17-year sentence for a forgery and incitement case and was sued this month by CPP official Sam Soeun over another Facebook comment.
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton