F’pec Official Grilled on Defamation Charges

Funcinpec’s former governor of Kandal province, Tep Nonnary, was questioned for nearly two hours at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday in relation to a de­famation lawsuit filed by Fun­cin­pec Secretary-General and co-Mi­nister of Interior Prince Noro­dom Sirivudh.

Speaking at the courthouse following his questioning by prosecutor Ngeth Sarath, Tep Nonnary said his accusations of corruption against Prince Sirivudh and calls for the prince’s removal, were meant as constructive criticism of the royalist party.

Prince Sirivudh lodged the complaint earlier this month after Tep Non­­nary accused him of cor­­ruption in relation to his re­mov­al

“This lawsuit accuses me of criticizing [Prince Sirivudh] over the ap­pointment of provincial and mu­nicipal governors and deputy governors which was involved with corruption,” Tep Nonnary said.

“My criticism is to improve my par­ty because…the party falls down in popularity. My criticism is to bring up my party in order to operate well,” he said, adding he did not mean to defame Fun­cin­pec.

But Tep Nonnary was stead­fast on Friday in his claims of irregularity in his removal and the removal of about 20 Funcinpec provincial and municipal officials after the coalition government was formed.

“There are some documents proving that some people were not Fun­cinpec members, but they have been appointed in Fun­cin­pec’s quota,” he said.

Funcinpec spokesman Tuot Lux said Friday that Tep Nonnary should have kept his criticism private. “The criticism that improves the party is not done publicly. It should not make the party’s popularity go down,” he said.

Commenting on the claim that non-Funcinpec members were gi­ven provincial and municipal posts, Tuot Lux denied the allegations and said Tep Nonnary con­tinued to defame the party, even while being questioned. “He still defames so the court will give him justice,” he said.

A trial date has not yet been set.

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