OPPOSITION lawmaker Mu Sochua reaffirmed yesterday that she would refuse to pay fines levied after she was convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, again daring the government to imprison her for failing to meet a court-ordered payment deadline.
As the deadline for paying the fine approached yesterday, the Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian called a press conference to “declare war” on the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the Kingdom’s judiciary.
“Today I would like to declare war,” she said. “It is not a war of weapons; I declare war as a democrat against the loss of morality and justice. I would like to tell people that the CPP must be held accountable before the nation.”
Mu Sochua’s fine is the result of a prolonged legal battle with Hun Sen dating back to April 2009, when she launched an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against the premier for comments he made about her during a public speech.
Hun Sen launched a defamation countersuit against Mu Sochua, resulting in her conviction last August by Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
She was ordered to pay a sum of 16.5 million riels in fines and compensation (around US $3,928), which she has repeatedly refused to hand over.
Mu Sochua said yesterday that she would not accept contributions from those who had offered to pay the fine, opting instead to let yesterday’s 5pm deadline pass and await her potential arrest. “Let the court take action,” she said. “I am prepared to go to jail.”
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that police had not yet received an arrest order from the court.
“The police are waiting for the court’s citation,” he said.
Neither Sok Roeun, the deputy prosecutor in charge of the case, nor Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Chea Sok Heang could be reached for comment yesterday.
Tith Sothea, spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said that the government and the courts have never regarded Mu Sochua as an enemy, and that her case had been dealt with fairly. He said her resistance to the courts was a move to gain ascendancy within the SRP.
“She wants to go to jail so that she can be party president,” and the situation signifies a rift within the SRP, he said. He added, however, that her declaration of war was a sign of disrespect toward the court system.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said that Mu Sochua’s refusal to pay did not signify an opposition to the state, but rather a call to defend the rule of law.
“Mu Sochua is a representative for all women who struggle for a just and independent judiciary,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JAKE SCHONEKER