Defamation Case Against Foreign Minister Rekindled

Khmer Power Party president Sourn Serey Ratha filed an appeal on Monday against the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision last month to dismiss his defamation case against Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong.

Municipal court clerk Phal Sokrachana said he received the complaint and would pass it on to the Court of Appeal. Mr. Serey Ratha, who received a royal pardon for a 2015 conviction for plotting to attack the government, claims Mr. Namhong defamed him at a press conference in December during which the minister accused him of committing “terrorism.”

“I am appealing because I am not satisfied with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision to drop my complaint,” Mr. Serey Ratha said on Monday. “I saw that the court was not independent. The court is under the influence of the powerful.”

Mr. Namhong’s lawyer, Kar Savuth, has said the minister did not defame the politician because the word “terrorism” was effectively identical to the charge of plotting against the government.

Mr. Serey Ratha has in the past advocated for a popular uprising to push Prime Minister Hun Sen out of power but has denied plotting any attack.

The government presented no evidence of plans for an attack in its case against him, which rights groups have called politically motivated.

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