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Sovantha files suit against Rainsy

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Thy Sovantha speaks to the press outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last year. Pha Lina

Sovantha files suit against Rainsy

Social media celebrity Thy Sovantha yesterday filed a defamation complaint against exiled Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy for alleging she took a $1 million bribe from Prime Minister Hun Sen to fund her activities.

The accusations, aired by Rainsy at a forum in Paris on January 14 that was broadcast online, stem from online chats purportedly between the premier and Sovantha, which were leaked to the latter’s Facebook in November.

Responding directly to the claims for the first time, the 21-year-old yesterday said her account on the social media site had been hacked and the messages fabricated.

“My Facebook page was stolen on November 24,” she said by phone.

“Straight away I filed a complaint with the Ministry of Interior. All of the leaked messages were created by a hacker . . . There is nobody providing me money.”

In her complaint, released in local media, Sovantha accuses Rainsy of breaching Article 305 of the Cambodian Criminal Code and demands $250,000 in compensation.

The former opposition activist turned ruling party favourite – who led a months-long campaign attacking CNRP deputy president Kem Sokha over an alleged affair – said Rainsy’s comments were false and had damaged her reputation.

“His remark had an impact on me. He used words that attacked me, saying that samdech prime minister had bribed me with $1 million to do bad activities and to lead demonstrations against the CNRP and other things,” Sovantha said.

“These allegations contradicted reality, so I decided to file a complaint.”

In the messages leaked to Sovantha’s Facebook account, users referring to each other as “grandpa” and “grandchild” discuss undermining the CNRP, among other topics. One message has “grandpa” saying he has provided $1 million to fund “grandchild’s work”.

A separate batch of messages, leaked in a video, were said to feature Sovantha colluding with the premier’s second son, Hun Manith, to discredit Sokha.

However, Sovantha said both exchanges were made up as part of a “set-up” to give critics the pretext to attack Cambodia’s leaders and thus provide a boost for the opposition.

Officials with the Ministry of Defence, where Manith is a high-ranking official, never denied the authenticity of the recordings, but dismissed them as a personal matter.

Since fleeing to France in 2015 to avoid arrest for a two-year conviction related to a revived defamation case brought by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong, Rainsy has been hit with several lawsuits, all widely considered politically motivated.

Via email, Rainsy who was officially barred from the country late last year stood by his comments.

“I confirm to have said that Hun Sen had proposed to give 1 million USD to the girl, based on a message from Hun Sen in person broadly posted on Facebook, which has not been denied by the prime minister or his entourage,” he said.

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