PHNOM Penh Municpal Court has issued a letter warning that opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua will be “detained by force” if she doesn’t pay a court-ordered fine within 10 days.
The Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian has refused to pay the fine of 8.5 million riels (US$2,024) as well as 8 million riels in compensation – fees levied against her when the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found her guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen last August.
In the letter, dated yesterday, Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun ordered Mu Sochua to pay the fine to the treasury within 10 days.
“If [Mu Sochua] does not pay by the scheduled date, we will order her to be detained by force,” the letter stated.
Mu Sochua could not be reached for comment yesterday, but an assistant confirmed she had received the letter.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Mu Sochua’s stance was intended to demonstrate “that the Khmer court is unjust and corrupt”.
Run Saray, executive director of Legal Aid of Cambodia, said it appeared the court was complying with legal procedures in enforcing the conviction.
“If you fail to pay, you could face a contempt of court order,” he said, and added that Mu Sochua could ultimately face jail time.
Such a scenario, however, would play into the hands of the opposition more than the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy.
“If she does [go to jail] she will gain a lot of support, mainly from women voters,” he said. “That’s what the prime minister cannot afford to have happen.”
Instead, both sides might come to a last-minute arrangement that would allow Mu Sochua to avoid jail, he said.
Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Press and Quick Reaction Unit at the Council of Ministers, said yesterday that Mu Sochua would not benefit from her own imprisonment.
“If she sees that imprisonment is her correct issue, it is her right. We see this as defiance, not as profit for the SRP.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY IRWIN LOY