The wife of Moeung Sonn, president of Khmer Civilization Foundation, asked for “justice” late last week as her husband’s case was heard by the Court of Appeal.
Moeung Sonn, who now is in self-imposed exile, was sentenced to two years in jail and fined 15 million riels (US$3,615) at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on July 12, 2009, following a lawsuit brought against him by the government.
He was found guilty of disseminating disinformation over a controversial lighting project proposed at Angkor Wat. He said that workers installing new lights at the 12th-century temple had drilled holes deep into the structure’s walls – a claim denied by the government and the Apsara Authority.
Yi Phally, his 67-year-old wife, attended the appeal hearing on Friday. Outside the court, she requested that her husband receive a lighter sentence, because he had meant no ill will against the government.
“I wish that my husband is helped by the King and the three Samdechs: Hun Sen, Chea Sim and Heng Samrin. I called for the appeal court to give justice to my husband [and for him] to return to Cambodia,” she said,
Moeung Sonn’s defence lawyer, Sok Sam Oeun, an executive director at Cambodian Defenders Project, said that his client had not intended to criticise the government’s proposal for a new lighting project, but was merely concerned that the project could directly affect the beauty, safety and body of the temple. “Disseminating disinformation in Article 62 of the UNTAC code no longer exists,” Sok Sam Oeun said,
referring to the 1992 UNTAC penal code which was replaced by the Kingdom’s 2009 penal code.
But Pal Chandara, a lawyer representing the government, again accused Moeung Sonn of spreading disinformation. He said claims that the Apsara Authority was using lights powered by 2000-watt bulbs on the temple’s wall were inaccurate as technicians from the Council of Ministers said only four-watt bulbs were being used.
“Moeung Sonn’s [claims] caused chaos,” he said, adding that the situation could have been more problematic than when the Thai Embassy was burned and looted in 2003 after an allegation that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand was aired in a Thai soap opera.
Oum Samath, a senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, said that Moeung Sonn’s was merely requesting the government consider his opinion, as opposed to disseminating disinformation. Presiding Judge Chan Madina said that a verdict was due on May 24.