A lawyer representing the prime minister in a defamation lawsuit against CNRP President Sam Rainsy reiterated in court on Friday that the opposition leader and his co-accused, Senator Thak Lany, should face charges for claiming that the prime minister and his government orchestrated the murder of political analyst Kem Ley.
Under questioning by a prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday, the prime minister’s lawyer, Ky Tech, characterized Mr. Rainsy and Ms. Lany as opportunists who were using the murder to advance political causes.
“Sam Rainsy took advantage of the case by fabricating evidence to further his political interests,” Mr. Tech said outside the courtroom. “The acts of Sam Rainsy prove that he abused the law and criminal code.”
Mr. Rainsy has stood by his claim, arguing that the government would order an outside investigation if it truly was uninvolved in the July 10 murder of Kem Ley. Ms. Lany, on the other hand, said last week that she never accused the government of involvement in the hit on Kem Ley, and claimed that a recording of a speech she gave had been doctored.
The prime minister sued both opposition officials for defamation on Monday, seeking the symbolic amount of 100 riel in damages. However, he also accused them of incitement, a more serious charge that carries a jail term.
“Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] decided to seek only 100 riel because in this case, Samdech wants only the court of law to provide justice to Samdech,” Mr. Tech said, referring to the premier by an honorific that translates roughly as “lord.”
Sam Sokong, a lawyer defending Mr. Rainsy and Ms. Lany, said he would summon witnesses proving Ms. Lany’s speech had been altered, but that he did not know Ms. Lany’s whereabouts.
On Tuesday, the prime minister said he had gotten wind of a plan by Ms. Lany to flee the country, and that he would arrest her if she made such an attempt. Ms. Lany could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Tech also announced that one of his other clients, National Assembly President Heng Samrin, would seek higher damages against Mr. Rainsy in a separate case, which saw the opposition leader found guilty of defamation late last month and ordered to pay Mr. Samrin 150 million riel (around $37,500) in compensation.
The case was filed after Mr. Rainsy wrongly claimed on Facebook that Mr. Samrin’s regime had sentenced King Norodom Sihanouk to death in the 1980s.
On Friday, Mr. Tech said his client needed more money to compensate him for the damage to his reputation.
“The court verdict ordering Mr. Sam Rainsy to pay only 150 million riel is not commensurate with Mr. Sam Rainsy’s acts that defamed Samdech [Heng Samrin] and affected Samdech’s honor and reputation,” Mr. Tech said, adding that Mr. Samrin would seek 300 million riel (about $75,000) in compensation.
Mr. Rainsy’s attorneys are also appealing the case, arguing that the CNRP leader never referred to Mr. Samrin by name in his Facebook post and that Mr. Rainsy had not meant his comment about the death sentence literally.