The government on Tuesday filed disinformation and incitement lawsuits with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against the president of a local cultural organization for criticizing the installation of lights at Angkor Wat, officials said Thursday.
According to Pol Chandara, the government lawyer who filed the lawsuit, the remarks made by Moeung Sonn, president of Khmer Civilization Foundation, that were quoted in the local media could cause “outsiders” to think negatively about the government.
“The government sues him since he produced untruths related to the lights installation…. He discredited the government’s name,” Mr Chandara said, add-
ing that the government is asking for 10 million riel, about $2,500, in compensation and for a retraction of his statement.
According to a transcript of an interview posted on Voice of Am-
erica’s website Monday, Mr Sonn said the heat generated by the lights would damage the temple walls.
“In reality, lights produce heat. We had some aluminum surrounding the light [and] it be-
came red and burned…. Before I took the picture of the aluminum and now I saw it is burned. This kind of…heat light should not happen,” he was quoted as saying.
Mr Sonn could not be reached for comment Thursday.
The government’s lawsuits were filed a day after Mr Sonn filed his own defamation and disinformation lawsuits against a well-known government confidant, TV journalist and newspaper publisher Soy Sopheap, over an article that accused the NGO president of interfering in government affairs.
A May 30 article printed in Mr Sopheap’s newspaper, Deum Ampil News, stated that Mr Sonn had upset unnamed government officials by interfering in negotiations over the border standoff at Preah Vihear temple.
The Angkor light installation has been also criticized by opposition officials, who claim the project could damage the 12th century temple. However, the Apsara Authority, the government body that manages Angkor, has said the lights pose no danger to the temple.
The International Coordinating Committee for Angkor also ap-
proved the lighting project on Thursday, but only if it is kept on a limited scale and monitored by the ICC.
“The ICC ad hoc experts will check on the follow ups,” Unesco Country Representative Teruo Jinnai said via SMS text message Thursday.
(Additional reporting by Cajsa Collin)