Dissident Files Lawsuit Against Hor Namhong

Sourn Serey Ratha, president of the nascent Khmer Power Party (KPP), on Monday filed a defamation and incitement lawsuit against Foreign Affairs Minister Hor Namhong at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, following through on a threat he made last week.

Mr. Serey Ratha returned to Cambodia in October after nine years in exile, during which he leveled a steady stream of criticism at the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily Sourn Serey Ratha speaks to reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday.
Jens Welding Ollgaard/The Cambodia Daily
Sourn Serey Ratha speaks to reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday.

In January, Mr. Serey Ratha was convicted in absentia of incitement, plotting against the government and obstructing elections, but was able to return to Cambodia due to a surprise pardon arranged by Mr. Hun Sen.

At a press conference on Friday, the dissident announced that he would press charges against Mr. Namhong if the minister failed to apologize for describing Mr. Ratha and fellow KPP members as terrorists earlier this month.

With no apology from Mr. Namhong forthcoming, Mr. Serey Ratha proceeded to the municipal court on Monday morning.

“We provided the complaint and some evidence to the court,” Mr. Serey Ratha told reporters outside the court after meeting with officials inside.

He added that while he doubted the suit would bear fruit, it would bring increased awareness of the court’s failings.

“Even though we have very little hope that [the court] will take action or provide justice, I must file it because I want to increase the number of cases of injustice in this court,” he said.

“If this court does not sentence [Mr. Namhong] and does not provide justice to the Khmer Power Party and our activists that were accused of being terrorists, the cases of injustice will increase.”

At the KPP’s Phnom Penh headquarters on Friday, Mr. Serey Ratha played an audio recording of Mr. Namhong speaking during a press conference earlier this month in which the minister can be heard telling reporters that KPP members had “committed terrorism.”

“Especially the party of Sourn Serey Ratha in the United States of America, whose members have even committed terrorism in Cambodia, we also pardoned them and we want to strengthen multiparty democracy,” Mr. Namhong says in the clip.

Ly Chandara, an administrator at the court, confirmed receipt of Mr. Serey Ratha’s lawsuit on Monday.

“I received his complaint and I will send it to the prosecutor,” Mr. Chandara said, declining to comment further.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Chum Sounry said that Mr. Namhong was unconcerned by Mr. Serey Ratha’s suit.

“His excellency the deputy prime minister is busy thinking about national problems. He does not have time to think about this problem,” Mr. Sounry said, referring further questions to Mr. Namhong’s lawyer, Kar Savuth, who declined to comment.

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