The Phnom Penh Municipal Court is scheduled to question on Monday the editor of a local newspaper who is accused of spreading disinformation and defamation for publishing an article that accused a government official of profiting from a scholarship program named after Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Bun Tha, editor-in-chief of Khmer Amatak newspaper, was charged with defamation and disinformation by the court on Nov 5 following a complaint lodged by Kao Kim Hourn, a Foreign Affairs Ministry secretary of state and the president of the University of Cambodia.
Judge Lim Makaron said he was assigned to the case that relates to a Sept 14, 2009, newspaper article, which criticized the $5 fee levied by the university on students wishing to win one of 500 Prime Minister Hun Sen Scholarships to Study at Mr Kim Hourn’s university.
The story alleged several thousand applicants paid the relatively expensive application fee for the free scholarship and the amassed fees had enriched the university’s owner.
Judge Makaron said Tuesday that the court has also summoned the plaintiff, Mr Kim Hourn, but he declined to reveal the date of that scheduled appearance.
“I am just assigned to continue this case from the previous judge,” Judge Makaron said, declining to discuss details for fear of harming the investigation. “I have not questioned the two parties in the dispute yet, but I summoned them already.”
Municipal court Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bunchea said Tuesday that he had already filed the formal request to charge Mr Tha with defamation and disinformation under article 63 of the Untac criminal code and article 10 of the Cambodian press law.
Attempts to contact Mr Kim Hourn at his university office and by phone were unsuccessful Tuesday and yesterday. A staff member at UC confirmed Tuesday that the application fee was $5, but he declined to say how many people in total had applied for the 500 places.
Mr Tha, the editor, said he would appear for questioning and that he stood by the premise of his story.
“I published that article with the intention to inform the school that the application [fee] was quite expensive,” he said Tuesday.