Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, Hun Manet, said on Friday he had filed a defamation complaint against a Facebook user who linked him and his mother to the illicit trade of luxury timber.
In a post to his own Facebook page on Friday afternoon, Lieutenant General Manet, a deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said that a user writing under the name Chham Chhany had damaged his family’s “honors and decency.”
“Today, I take legal action against one person named Chham Chhany, who have fabricated stories, which affected my and my family’s honors and decency,” Lt. Gen. Manet wrote.
“In a democratic society, every citizen has the rights to freedom of expression. Yet, the exercise of a person’s freedom of expression must be accompanied by a certain degree of personal responsibility.”
The offending post, titled “Forestry criminals are challenging to occupy logging areas, and the benefits go to the Hun family,” was made in response to the government’s newly formed task force to suppress the rampant illegal trade of luxury timber.
It links Lt. Gen. Manet and his mother, Bun Rany, to two wealthy businessmen, Soeng Sam Ol and Lim Bunna, who were recently named by Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan as prime targets in a new crackdown on illegal logging.
“Soeng Sam Ol has Bun Rany standing behind him, while Hun Manet stands behind Lim Bunna, so the authorities who searched Lim Bunna’s timber stockpile said it’s legal wood,” the post said, referring to raids last week, the results of which are yet to be made public.
Chham Chhany wrote that he had acquired intelligence suggesting that “authorities have received an order from Bun Rany Hun Sen to facilitate the business of the two Oknhas.”
“Oknha” is an honorific granted to wealthy businesspeople in exchange for a sizable financial contribution to the state.
“My source clarified that, in the past, Bun Rany Hun Sen did not know that Oknha Khna [Mr. Bunna] has a relationship with Hun Manet, which is why she borrowed Samdech [Hun Sen’s] hand to get rid of Oknha Khna and pave the way for Oknha Soeng Sam Ol to fell the trees,” the Facebook user wrote.
“But after Oknha Khna begged for intervention from Hun Manet, things were changed to ‘legal wood,’ meaning that the two Oknhas still have the opportunity to fell trees, especially to feed Bun Rany and Hun Manet. If they do not feed them enough: imprison, imprison, imprison.”
Earlier this month, the National Police Commissariat posted a report to its website accusing Mr. Sam Ol of laundering illegally cut timber through an economic land concession inside the Phnom Prich Wildlife Sanctuary in Mondolkiri province.
After the news was picked up by the media, however, the report vanished from the website, and police officials suggested it never existed.
As part of the crackdown that followed, a warehouse in Kratie province belonging to Mr. Bunna was searched for illegal timber.
The Mondolkiri provincial governor also said this week that Mr. Bunna had been granted an economic land concession inside the Phnom Prich sanctuary after Mr. Hun Sen put a freeze on such developments in 2012, though the Environment Ministry said the contract was only for clearing wood on a canceled concession.
Members of Mr. Hun Sen’s family and inner circle were previously linked to illegal logging—which has seen Cambodia’s forests chopped down at one of the fastest rates in the world—in the 2007 Global Witness report “Cambodia’s Family Trees: Illegal logging and the stripping of public assets.”
It said the most powerful illegal logging syndicate was operated by Mr. Hun Sen’s cousin and his ex-wife, a friend of Ms. Rany. The government ordered all copies of the report seized and destroyed.
Following the release of an earlier report on illegal logging in 2005, “Taking a Cut,” Global Witness had been banned from working in the country, though it continued to conduct investigations into the plundering of Cambodia’s natural resources.
Lt. Gen. Manet said in his post on Friday that he had submitted his defamation complaint to the National Police and requested that Chham Chhany—whose Facebook page says he was educated in the U.S. and suggests he lives there—be prosecuted with the full force of the law.
The Facebook user did not respond to a request for comment.
However, in a post on his Facebook page responding to the lawsuit, he wrote, “Right after Hun Manet sued me, many people said that Chham Chhany could not escape jail. Although Ny has gone abroad, Interpol will track him down. Ooh, is Interpol hunting [people] down for defamation cases? Do not do such a thing. Ny will not go anywhere except staying at home. Ny is afraid of mosquito bites.”
National Police Commissioner Neth Saveoun said it was too early for him to discuss Lt. Gen. Manet’s complaint.
“I have not received the complaint in my hand,” he said.