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Sovantha suit opens door for probe of Sokha

Social media celebrity (left) Thy Sovantha appears on stage at a CNRP rally in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park after the 2013 national elections.
Social media celebrity (left) Thy Sovantha appears on stage at a CNRP rally in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park after the 2013 national elections. Hong Menea

Sovantha suit opens door for probe of Sokha

As a defamation lawsuit filed by Thy Sovantha triggers a government investigation into the Kem Sokha infidelity accusations, the social media celebrity yesterday dismissed any suggestions political influence or lust for fame motivated her pursuit of the charges.

Sovantha, who was once a prominent opposition supporter, filed a defamation suit to the court last week when recordings of flirtatious conversations between a man alleged to be deputy CNRP president Kem Sokha and a mistress began to emerge.

In one of the recordings, the man is heard denying having a relationship with Sovantha or buying her a car. The man asserts that the former prominent opposition supporter is merely using the CNRP “to do politics and get money”.

With the audio recordings unable to be validated, Sovantha called on the authorities to investigate so she had someone to sue, a move that has opened the door for the Interior Ministry’s involvement.

This has prompted some analysts to suggest she may have been unknowingly lured into a political ploy or that she may simply be seeking to raise her profile through a defamation case. “Through the law, I have done the right thing, because they violated and defamed me and I have right to file a lawsuit,” Sovantha said yesterday, denying she was either a pawn or seeking notoriety.

In response to Sovantha’s claim, the Ministry of Interior’s anti-terrorism and overseas crime unit has identified a woman named Khem Chandaraty who they believe may be “Mon Srey”, the woman identified as Sokha’s mistress in the audio recordings.

Chandaraty, who on Wednesday approached rights group Adhoc for legal support, is due to meet with officials on Saturday at the ministry.

“We need to find evidence to restore my reputation and theirs,” Sovantha said, referring to Sokha and Chandaraty.

Ear Sophal, an associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs at Occidental College in Los Angeles, described the entire scandal as “dirty tricks”. “I hope she hasn’t willingly or unwillingly become a political pawn,” he said, of Sovantha’s involvement.

He added that with Sovantha’s popularity among Cambodian youth, she had the potential to be a future leader. “This is legitimacy that the ruling party cannot buy for itself, but if they can co-opt her, she would bring her followers to them,” he said.

Ou Virak, founder of the Future Forum political think tank, said yesterday, that the defamation case appeared baseless and Sovantha had other motivations for entering the fray. “She wants to be back in the news; wants to be back in the limelight; wants to be talked about,” he said.

Virak said serious questions over the legality of phone tapping or whether or not the recordings had been fabricated were being pushed to the side.

Contacted yesterday, independent legal expert Sok Sam Oeun, said that regardless of whether the recordings are fake or not, legally, the person who leaked the tapes into the public arena “becomes responsible for the defamation charge”.

However, Sovantha, under the advice of her lawyer, said whoever was speaking on the tapes should also be held responsible.

Y Sok Khy, director of the anti-terrorism and overseas crime unit, said the unit was focusing on discovering whose voice was in the recordings. Khy would not comment on any action against those who leaked the recordings.

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