An opposition commune candidate in Pursat province has been fined more than $6,000 for his conviction in a defamation case that CNRP officials say was politically motivated.
Khin Samorn, who is running for commune chief in Krakor district’s Ansar Chambak commune, was sued in August for allegedly defaming Eng Kunthea, a CPP provincial working group member and a deputy managing director of Electricite du Cambodge (EDC), a provincial court document says.
“Please inform the accused, Khin Samorn, of his verdict in absentia dated March 2, 2017, by the Pursat Provincial Court, which decided to fine [him] 5 million riel for the state on charges of public defamation,” the document dated May 8 says. “It is ordered that Khin Samorn pay 20 million riel in compensation to the plaintiff, Eng Kunthea.”
The fines total about $6,250.
The document does not elaborate on the court’s decision or how Mr. Kunthea was defamed. Neither court officials nor Mr. Kunthea could be reached for comment.
Mr. Samorn denied speaking ill of Mr. Kunthea, however, saying he had instead compared the political platforms of the ruling party and the CNRP when visiting a sick activist in the commune in August.
“The court did not summon me at all and tried me in absentia in February,” Mr. Samorn said, adding that he had been questioned twice by police and once by a prosecutor late last year. “I think this is an intimidation against me because it was issued during the election campaign.”
He added that he had received the verdict on Wednesday and would consult his lawyer to appeal the decision on Monday.
CNRP provincial chief Yan Seng Hort said on Monday that the fine was “very hefty” and that Mr. Samorn was sued because he was popular in the commune.
He said the plaintiff sued Mr. Samorn for accusations he had made about alleged land-grabbing. The lawsuit was meant to undermine Mr. Samorn’s activism, Mr. Seng Hort added.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan denied the case was related to the election campaign. “It is the court’s decision,” he said. “[The] verdict issuance is a coincidence.”