Opposition lawmaker Nhay Chamroeun said he is planning to file civil lawsuits against the Cambodian government and Hun Manet in U.S. courts seeking to hold them accountable for a savage beating he received last year.
Three members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit were sentenced to one year in prison in May for the beating of Mr. Chamroeun and fellow CNRP lawmaker Kong Saphea outside the National Assembly last October.
Both victims boycotted the trial, saying that the bodyguards were merely scapegoats for superiors who ordered the assault.
Mr. Chamroeun, who holds dual U.S.-Cambodian citizenship, said in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Wednesday that he was filing the lawsuit against Lieutenant General Manet because of his senior position in the bodyguard unit.
“Hun Sen’s bodyguards are the ones who beat me and Mr. Hun Manet is their deputy commander,” Mr. Chamroeun said. “He must be responsible.”
The eldest of Mr. Hun Sen’s three sons, Lt. Gen. Manet is also head of the Defense Ministry’s counterterrorism department.
Mr. Chamroeun said his attorneys were working on lawsuits to be filed against the general in California and another against the Cambodian government in Washington D.C.
“I will file complaints to seek justice and to put pressure on the government to stop using violence against people and lawmakers,” he said.
Mr. Chamroeun also told RFA he was meeting with U.S. politicians to draw attention to the cases. Photos on his Facebook page show meetings with U.S. representatives Alan Lowenthal, a California Democrat who heads the House of Representatives caucus on Cambodia, and Ed Royce, a California Republican who is a staunch critic of Mr. Hun Sen and chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In an email on Thursday, Morton Sklar, whom Mr. Chamroeun named as one of two attorneys leading the case, said his client was still considering two distinct legal paths.
“They would be civil lawsuits based on the damages inflicted upon him, invoking several U.S. statutes that authorize civil claims by U.S. citizens subjected to torture or violent physical attacks taking place abroad,” Mr. Sklar wrote.
But he said it was likely that Mr. Chamroeun would proceed with only one lawsuit as “the focus for his legal efforts here in the U.S.,” he wrote.
“The difference in the two possible approaches hinges on who the named defendants in the case or cases would be, and the legal basis for the claims being made.”
Mr. Chamroeun could not be reached for comment.
The case would mark the third lawsuit against Lt. Gen. Manet filed by Mr. Sklar, a human rights lawyer who has often worked with the opposition CNRP.
Opposition official Meach Sovannara, who is also a dual citizen serving a 20 year prison sentence in a case he claims is politically motivated, sued Lt. Gen. Manet for his alleged involvement in Mr. Sovannara’s “arbitrary, extra-legal” detention.
The second lawsuit was filed on behalf of Paul Hayes, a process server in California who says Lt. Gen. Manet’s bodyguards beat him during a visit to Long Beach, California, as he was trying to deliver a subpoena in the first case.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the government had nothing to fear from a lawsuit on U.S. soil.
“Even though the U.S is 100 times bigger than Cambodia and has a population 20 or 30 times the size of Cambodia’s, I do not think they have jurisdiction over Cambodia,” he said.
Christopher Beres, a lawyer representing Lt. Gen. Manet in the cases, said on Thursday that he had yet to see evidence that Mr. Chamroeun had filed a new suit.
“For all I know, it could just be talk,” Mr. Beres said.