The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has summoned opposition leader Sam Rainsy to appear for questioning in yet another court case, the third lawsuit he has been hit with since a warrant was issued for his arrest in November, according to a copy of the new summons obtained on Friday.
The latest case involves a complaint filed by CPP minister Som Soeun over a post on Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page earlier this month. Mr. Rainsy accused the minister of being involved in a plan to boost Prime Minister Hun Sen’s popularity on Facebook by hiring poor people in India and the Philippines to “like” the premier’s page.
Mr. Soeun said the claim was false and promptly sued Mr. Rainsy, accusing him of “twisting the truth.”
Now, both men have been summoned to court to answer questions before deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok on March 23.
“This summons is to invite [Mr. Rainsy] to be questioned over His Excellency Som Soeun’s complaint,” Mr. Sok said, adding that Mr. Soeun had also been called to court.
Mr. Soeun’s lawyer, Suon Visal, said his client would appear next week to make his case.
“His Excellency Som Soeun’s speech just advised his officials to create Facebook accounts, but he did not order his officials to create fake Facebook accounts, so Sam Rainsy’s words are not true,” he said.
Mr. Rainsy has been in exile since a warrant was issued for his arrest in November due to a years-old defamation case, unwilling to return to Cambodia for fear of being jailed. Since November, he has also been hit with an additional arrest warrant, a defamation lawsuit, and criminal charges of being an accomplice to incitement and forgery.
He said on Friday that he would happily respond to questions from the prosecutor over the new case, but that he would prefer to do so over the Internet.
“[I]n order to save time and money, I will do it through Messenger, a live communication operated by Facebook,” Mr. Rainsy wrote in an email. “No proposal can be more appropriate and consistent than this one.”
He also called for an “independent audit” of the Facebook popularity of both himself and Mr. Hun Sen to determine whether the premier might have purchased fake supporters.
“The Facebook Company itself may get involved because it’s a matter of ethics and code of conduct,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Julia Wallace)