Manet Returns From US, Dismisses Lawsuit

Prime Minister Hun Sen’s eldest son, Hun Manet, arrived back in Phnom Penh on Monday after two weeks in the U.S. and Canada, deriding a lawsuit filed against him in Los Angeles for wrongful imprisonment that includes a count of “international terrorism.”

Lieutenant General Manet, who heads the Defense Ministry’s counterterrorism department, was repeatedly badgered during the Khmer New Year trip, with “Never Manet” protests organized by Cambodian communities convinced that he is his father’s chosen heir.

Hun Manet speaks during a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Hun Manet speaks during a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

At a press conference at Phnom Penh International Airport, he said he had yet to look into the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of CNRP official and U.S. citizen Meach Sovannara. It claims Mr. Sovannara is being falsely imprisoned in Phnom Penh by the ruling CPP.

“Concerning the case of Meach Sovannara, I did not see that summons. But I heard through the media that I was being sued for a few things, including international terrorism, and I have no idea about that,” he said.

“If they want to sue, they should choose a reasonable issue,” he added. “These days, millions of people in Cambodia know Hun Manet and monitor my activities, and they would have no idea about it, either, when they hear that I’m being sued for international terrorism.”

“I think that them suing me in this case with no evidence is just…for political gain,” he said, before indicating he would respond to the claims filed with the U.S. court when he found the time.

“When they process the case, I will respond, because there were lots of other issues being created while I was abroad,” he said.

Mr. Sovannara was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “leading an insurrection” due to his presence at a July 2014 protest in Phnom Penh that turned violent. He has argued that his jailing is arbitrary, and his lawyers claim the case could also be interpreted as an act of terrorism under U.S. law.

The lawyer leading the case has said he believes a process server named Paul Hayes legally subpoenaed Lt. Gen. Manet on April 9. He says Mr. Hayes got close enough to the general and was technically serving him when attacked, meaning Lt. Gen. Manet has 30 days to respond.

Morton Sklar, the lawyer, did not respond to a request for comment. However, Mr. Hayes has said he was left with a bruised spine and sent to an intensive care unit for almost a week after being attacked by Lt. Gen. Manet’s bodyguards while serving the sub-poena, and that he has pressed charges.

Mr. Hayes has also rejected as “pure garbage” Lt. Gen. Manet’s claims that he simply fell to the ground. But the premier’s son repeated them on Monday, saying his bodyguards never touched the man.

“People were in a melee trying to get inside [a restaurant], so he might have tripped and fallen at that time,” he said. “So I feel sorrow about this fall.”

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