T HE trial of Khmer newspaper editor Thun Bunly - his second trip to court in
three months - was abruptly adjourned last week because of rowdiness in the
Bunly, of Oudamkati Khmer (Khmer Ideal) newspaper, has been
charged with disinformation under Article 62 of the UNTAC criminal
The charge relates to seven articles published this year which,
among other things, accused the government of using tyrannical power, called on
Second Prime Minister Hun Sen to relinquish power to the King and described Hun
Sen's face as being "thicker than the blade of an ax".
the articles represented his opinions, which he was legally allowed to
The courtroom at Phnom Penh Municipal Court was packed with
journalists and human rights workers when he appeared for trial Aug
Policemen were kept busy trying to maintain order, as Khmer
journalists and photographers moved around the room. At one point, a journalist
stuck his camera within half a meter of the face of Chief Judge Oum Sarith,
before being pushed back by a policeman.
When the judge challenged Bunly
to prove the claims in his articles, the editor repeatedly replied: "They were
not news stories, but my opinion, editorials. I can tell you no more than
He added: "Journalists must write like this [to express their
opinion]. No need to be a journalist if we just write to uphold the testicles of
others. The country will be ruined."
Some journalists present, apparently
colleagues of Bunly, welcomed his comment with applause, prompting the judge to
ask the prosecutor to adjourn the trial.
The trial was later scheduled
to resume on Monday, Aug 28.
Bunly's defender, Ang Eng Thong from the
ADHOC human rights group, said his defense was based on Article 41 of the
constitution, which protected the expression of opinions.
Minister of Information Ieng Mouly said: "There would have been nothing wrong if
[Bunly] had published the truth. We saw no truth in those articles and we want
him to explain."
Bunly had not been charged under the government's new
press law, which allows journalists to be fined for disinformation, because it
had not yet taken effect.
Mouly said the press law was signed by both
Prime Ministers on Aug 18 and would be forwarded to King Norodom Sihanouk to
Bunly was last in court in May, when he was fined 5 million
riels ($2,000) under the UNTAC law for defaming the Prime Ministers. He is
appealing that conviction.