The chief of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit has filed a defamation lawsuit against two opposition officials and two alleged suspects in the 1997 grenade attack on an opposition rally that left at least 15 dead and 150 injured, court officials confirmed Thursday.
Hing Bun Heang filed the defamation suit against opposition lawmaker Tioulong Saumura, who is also opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s wife, and Eng Chhay Eang, secretary-general of the Sam Rainsy Party, said Prak Savouth, chief clerk of the municipal court.
The suit also targets Chhay Vee, who confessed to taking part in the attacks in an interview featured on a DVD anonymously distributed to media and rights groups several months ago, and Chum Bon Thoeun, who in the DVD claimed that he helped recruit Chhay Vee for the attack.
Critics of the footage assert that the men were bribed to make their alleged confessions.
Hing Bun Heang suggested Thursday that he would also press forward with a defamation suit against opposition newspaper Moneaksekar Khmer, which printed a transcript of Chum Bon Thoeun and Chhay Vee’s confessions.
“I sue anyone who defames me,” he said, when asked about a possible suit against the paper.
Municipal court Chief Prosecutor Ouk Savouth confirmed Khmer-language media reports that Hing Bun Heang’s lawsuits had been transferred from military to civilian court.
The reports said Hing Bun Heang filed the suits with Military Court on Aug 25 and that they were transferred to municipal court on Aug 31.
Some observers were critical of the possibility of the suits—which do not concern strictly military matters—being referred to Military Court.
Dam Sith, editor of Moneaksekar Khmer, said he has not been formally informed of any lawsuit but added that he would not be surprised if he received a summons.
“I thought the lawsuit would be expanded to my newspaper,” he said. “It’s a politically motivated fight.”
Samrithy Duong Hak, Sam Rainsy Party cabinet chief, said the opposition had not yet received a formal summons but that he had already heard news of a possible suit.
He said he believed the courts were acting on orders from high-ranking government officials.
Hing Bun Heang said he didn’t care whether the suit was filed in civilian or Military Court.
“Either civilian or Military Court can pursue the case as long as it is legal,” he said.
“Lose or win depends on the law and the court,” he added.