Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sovannara suit in US has no authority over gov’t: lawyer

Sovannara suit in US has no authority over gov’t: lawyer

Sovannara suit in US has no authority over gov’t: lawyer

Cambodia's government has chosen to ignore a lawsuit lodged against it in the United States by the California-based family of imprisoned opposition figure and dual US-Cambodian citizen Meach Sovannara, a lawyer in the case said yesterday.

The lawsuit – which also names the prime minister’s eldest son, Lieutenant General Hun Manet, as a defendant – maintains Sovannara’s 20-year prison sentence in Cambodia for his involvement in a 2014 opposition rally that turned violent is unlawful and amounts to torture.

The government received official notification of the case in August, according to a postage receipt seen by the Post, and had til the end of October to respond, according to both parties.

Though Manet hired a US law firm to contest the suit after it was lodged at a California federal district court in April, the government will not formally respond, said Manet’s lawyer, Christopher Beres, who relayed the government's stance.

“The Kingdom’s position is that as a foreign sovereign it is immune from this lawsuit; it does not acknowledge the purported service of process and complaint,” said Beres, a legal adviser for Sciaroni & Associates representing Hun Manet, via email.

“This is the Kingdom’s prerogative. Any default judgment or award granted by the US court would be void ab initio [from the outset] because the Kingdom is not subject to the authority of the US court.”

Beres said the government’s position did not preclude it from challenging the court’s authority via legal avenues at a later date.

Via email yesterday, Morton Sklar, a US lawyer for Sovannara, said the decision not to respond was “totally illogical” and a “serious mistake”.

News of the government’s decision comes after Sklar confirmed that opposition lawmaker Nhay Chamroeun, who was assaulted by troops from the Premier’s Bodyguard Unit, would join the action as a plaintiff.

A previous version of this article stated attorney Chris Beres had been authorized to speak on behalf of the government. Beres was relaying the government's position in his capacity as Hun Manet's lawyer, but not as a representative or spokesman of the government. The Post apologises for any confusion caused.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen warmly welcomed by president Biden

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, as ASEAN chair, and other ASEAN leaders were warmly welcomed by US president Joe Biden as the ASEAN-US summit May 12-13 kicked off today in Washington. “This evening, I welcomed ASEAN leaders to the White House for the first time in

  • Prime Minister Hun Sen invites US president to attend summit in Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen personally invited US President Joe Biden to attend the ASEAN-US Summit which is set to be held in Cambodia in November, as ASEAN and the US are expected to upgrade their strategic partnership to a ‘comprehensive strategic partnership’, according to Prime

  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Pub Street on the cards for Battambang

    The Battambang Provincial Authority has announced that it is considering establishing a Pub Street in the area around the heritage buildings in Battambang town in a bid to attract more tourists. Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post that the establishment of a Pub