Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Chea Sophara has filed a lawsuit against the opposition Voice of Khmer Youth newspaper after it printed an unidentified source’s allegations that the city leader paid $2 million for a house in Australia.
“I don’t have it,” the governor said Wednesday of the house. “I must file a complaint because [the story] is crazy.”
Chea Sophara dared anyone to check with authorities in Australia, saying that if anyone found that he owns an expensive house there, he would give the residence to the Voice of Khmer Youth. The governor returned from a trip to Australia earlier this week.
The editor of the newspaper, Keo Sothea, said he didn’t mean to accuse Chea Sophara of owning the house, but only published the source’s allegation because he wanted to know if it was true or not.
Keo Sothea was ordered to appear in municipal court on Wednesday morning after he was served a warrant. He was questioned about the June 5 article, which said, “Why does a member of the CPP have a house abroad as a city governor, is it right or wrong?”
Keo Sothea said he could not provide more comments Wednesday because he is busy gathering evidence to support his newspaper. He added, however, that he is worried he will not win the court case, regardless of the evidence.
Municipal court officials would not confirm on Wednesday if a suit had been filed.
It’s the second suit in recent months against the struggling, pro-Sam Rainsy Party newspaper. A municipal court judge in April ordered the newspaper to pay $17,500 in damages after ruling that it had printed a defamatory story last year about the Mong Reththy Group and RCAF Division 44. The Mong Reththy Group agreed to drop the case in June after asking the newspaper not to print false information about the company.