Funcinpec Files Lawsuit Against PM

Funcinpec launched a lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday, charging that the premier incited last month’s killing of pro-Funcinpec radio journalist Chuor Chetharith, party officials said.

“On behalf of the Funcinpec party, we have decided this morning to file a complaint against Prime Minister Hun Sen,” Funcin­pec Secretary-General Prince Norodom Sirivudh told reporters outside his residence. “Funcinpec accuses the prime minister of incitement to the violence.”

A Phnom Penh Municipal Court official confirmed that the court had received a complaint from Funcinpec. This is the first time the royalist party has launched a court complaint against Hun Sen.

On Oct 18, Chuor Chetharith was shot dead by unidentified assailants in front of Ta Prohm radio station. The incident occurred just days after Hun Sen warned the station to stop broadcasting programs critical of his speeches, prompting Funcinpec to call the journalist’s death a politically motivated attack.

Prince Sirivudh said his party’s complaint was made under an article of the Untac legal code, which cites “incitement leading to the commission of a felony” as a criminal offense.

The complaint counters a defamation lawsuit launched by the CPP last month, alleging that Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh had falsely accused Hun Sen of being involved in the killing.

For nearly two weeks, the issue of the defamation suit held up negotiations between the three main political parties on the formation of the new government and National Assembly, as Funcinpec said it could not enter talks unless CPP dropped the case.

Plans for tripartite negotiations were only set back on track after King Norodom Sihanouk called a meeting last week. During the Friday meeting, the three parties agreed to convene a joint working group to discuss the Assembly on Dec 4 and second working group to discuss the government on Dec 6. But CPP officials gave no indication of withdrawing their defamation complaint.

Prince Sirivudh, however, said: “This is not revenge.”

Funcinpec spokesman Kassie Neou on Monday said his party was named as the sole plaintiff in the incitement lawsuit. He added Funcinpec was not seeking any monetary retribution, as the complaint was made under criminal law.

Questioned about Funcinpec’s expectations for the outcome of the suit, Kassie Neou said: “Ask the judge, the court. We can file, so we filed.”

Meanwhile, the Sam Rainsy Party on Monday backed Funcinpec’s decision to launch the incitement complaint.

“It’s reasonable. It’s justifiable,” Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said. “There’s some level of incitement in what Mr Hun Sen said.”

Ung Bun-Ang said the reason behind Funcinpec’s lawsuit was political since, as an elected member of the Assembly, Hun Sen is protected under parliamentary immunity. He can only be stripped of such immunity by a two-thirds majority vote by the Assembly, Ung Bun-Ang said. So, he said, “nothing will happen” as a result of the complaint.

Responding to Funcinpec’s plans to launch the complaint on Sunday, CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith had said that any such lawsuit would not derail the tripartite negotiations.

“It’s no problem because we don’t use the lawsuit as a pretext to avoid negotiations. Even if there are 100 lawsuits against the CPP, the CPP will attend [the talks],” Khieu Kanharith said.

Hun Sen adviser Om Yentieng also said the talks would not flounder because of the court action.

“I think that nothing can obstruct the process of the talks,” Om Yentieng said. With regard to Funcinpec’s motives for the lawsuit, he said, “Let’s leave this problem to the public opinion to judge.”

Earlier this year, remarks by Hun Sen criticizing Thai actress Suvanant Kongying were implicated by the US State Department in inflaming feelings ahead of the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots in Phnom Penh.            “Student demonstrators later quoted Hun Sen’s remarks as justification for their activities,” according to the State Department’s report to the US Congress.

The report concluded that “based on the available evidence, the Cambodian government authorities were irresponsible with nationalistic rhetoric.”

On Monday, Funcinpec parliamentarians submitted a petition to Hun Sen, urging him to drop the defamation case against Prince Ranariddh.

 

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