The Supreme Court today upheld an 18-month prison sentence against exiled former Sam Rainsy Party senator Thak Lany for accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen of being behind the 2016 killing of analyst Kem Ley.
The former opposition senator, who fled to Sweden, was sentenced in absentia by a Phnom Penh Municipal Court in November 2016 following a complaint by Prime Minister Hun Sen accusing her of “defamation and incitement to cause chaos”.
During the hearing this morning, defence lawyer Sam Sokong said that Thak Lany had indeed made the accusation during a speech to opposition members in Ratanakkiri’s Lumphat district, which he argued is “not in a public forum”. Someone had leaked the audio, he claimed, and posted it to social media.
“I would ask the court to transfer the case to the Appeal Court for re-investigation,” he said.
Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, countered that Lany's statements were indeed made to a public audience because of the sound system that was used. He said her intention was to make people hate the prime minister and to not support the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“Thak Lany had a public forum because there were loudspeakers. So it’s defamation and incitement to cause chaos in society,” he said. “If it affects ordinary people, it’s a common issue, but it also affects the prime minister and his reputation.”
Presiding Judge Khim Ponn ruled that because Thak Lany had clearly made the statements he would uphold the lower court's decision. He said he based the decision on the audio and video clip.
“After having discussed and seen that defense lawyer Sam Sokong said his client did not have a public forum ... the court sees that it’s not reasonable because Thak Lany did make the accusation,” Ponn said.
The court issued an arrest warrant for Lany, who remains in Sweden, and ordered her to pay 100 riel ($.02), on top of a $2,000 fine, in symbolic compensation to the premier.