Civil Servants Deny Defamatory Posts on Senator’s Sex Life

A suspended Interior Ministry official and a military officer went on trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court Tuesday over Facebook posts with claims about the sex life of a senator that are allegedly defamatory and have already led to the conviction of two people.

Pheng Vannak, who was suspended from his post at the internal security department’s anti-cybercrime bureau pending the trial and an investigation into a separate death threat he allegedly made, is accused of defaming CPP Senator Keo Maly, who he wrote was the mistress of a married military general.

Suspended Interior Ministry official Pheng Vannak arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday ahead of his defamation trial. (Siv Channa)
Suspended Interior Ministry official Pheng Vannak arrives at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday ahead of his defamation trial. (Siv Channa)

Also on the dock Tuesday was Hang Borey, identified by the court only as a “senior” member of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), who is also accused of defaming Ms. Maly.

The senator successfully sued Information Ministry official Prum San and Mam Manut, the wife of the general with whom she was said to be having the affair, over the same claims, with the court ordering them to pay fines and damages amounting to $3,750 each on Monday.

In a tense hearing Tuesday, Mr. Vannak sparred with deputy prosecutor Hing Bunthan and denied that he had defamed Ms. Maly, reasoning that while he had posted a status update using his Facebook account, it was regarding news of the legal action taken by Ms. Maly, and not an act of slander.

“I wrote it as a news article quoting the [post] of Mr. Prum San,” Mr. Vannak said.

Mr. Bunthan then reminded Mr. Vannak that he is a law enforcement official and told him that his post was a breach of Ms. Maly’s privacy.

“I don’t want to answer this prosecutor anymore,” Mr. Vannak responded.

“If you don’t want to give answers, then don’t have people filing complaints against you,” the prosecutor said.

Under questioning, Ms. Borey, the RCAF officer, said that her Facebook account had been hacked at the time she is alleged to have made a post saying that Ms. Maly and Seak Socheat, the military general, were having casual sex.

“I did not commit bad acts against Keo Maly,” she said. “My account was hacked in July and August.”

The prosecutor, however, dismissed those claims.

“Although both have denied what they are charged with, considering their activities and evidence on Facebook the prosecutor concludes that it really is public defamation,” Mr. Bunthan said.

In his closing statement, Theng Meng Y, a lawyer for Ms. Maly, said that Ms. Borey had changed her story since being questioned ahead of the hearing.

“In front of the prosecutor, Hang Borey already accepted that she said that [Ms. Maly] was having casual sex with His Excellency Seak Socheat,” he said.

Mr. Meng Y said that his client had dropped her compensation demands from $500,000 to $50,000 from Mr. Vannak and $550,000 to $100,000 from Ms. Borey.

“My client doesn’t want money, she only wants justice,” he said.

Presiding Judge Top Chhun Heng said that a verdict would be handed down on November 2.

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