Lawyers in Dueling Suits Meet With Prosecutors

Prosecutors at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thurs­day questioned attorneys for both Prime Minister Hun Sen and SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua concerning the dueling defamation lawsuits the two politicians have filed against each other.

The appearance by the two at­torneys at the court represents the first move forward in either of the defamation cases since they were filed with the court on April 27.

The prime minister’s attorney Ky Tech said that he met with Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun, and asked him to punish Ms Mu Sochua and an accomplice—whom the premier has identified as her lawyer, Kong Sam Onn—for al­leg­­edly defaming the premier.

“I asked the prosecutor to punish them according to the law and to get 10 million riel [about $2,500] from each of them as com­pensation,” Mr Ky Tech said by telephone after his appearance at the court.

“I told the prosecutor about what happened and let the prosecutor consider charging them,” he said.

Mr Kong Sam Onn said he met Municipal Prosecutor Hing Bun Chea for about one-and-a-half hours Thursday afternoon, during which time he told the prosecutor that he was pursuing the lawsuit against Mr Hun Sen for allegedly defaming and insulting his client, Ms Mu Sochua.

“I told him, in short, that I want jus­tice for my client. I have continued to pursue my defamation lawsuit against Prime Minister Hun Sen,” he said. “I defended my lawsuit and requested 500 riel compensation.”

Mr Hing Bun Chea confirmed by telephone that he questioned Mr Kong Sam Onn and said he would consider the evidence the attorney presented during the interview.

“The lawyer presented the evidence. I will look into the evidence” before the court proceeds further, Mr Hing Bun Chea added.

Mr Sok Roeun also said that he had received evidence and documents from Mr Ky Tech to support his client’s claim against Ms Mu Sochua. Among that evidence, he said, were newspaper articles.

“I will look into the case,” he added before hanging up his phone.

Ms Mu Sochua’s complaint was made in regard to an April 4 speech by the prime minister in which he called an unnamed woman in Kam­pot a “cheung klang”—a derogatory term literally meaning “strong legs” that is particularly offensive if directed at a woman.

Ms Mu Sochua, who is a lawmaker for Kampot, claims she was the obvious target of that remark and others made by the premier in the speech. Govern­ment officials claim that the prime minister was talking about another as yet unidentified woman.

Mr Hun Sen’s case was filed in response to Ms Mu Sochua’s, essentially claiming that she had defamed him by claiming the he had defamed her.

Ms Mu Sochua said that she has every intention following through with her complaint and that she would be monitoring the actions of the court very closely.

“We will continue to proceed with the lawsuit according to the law. So far I have seen the court take the correct steps,” she said.

She added that the court must provide equal justice toward her and the prime minister.

“This is a good opportunity for the court to prove that they are independent,” she said.

“I will monitor the court pro­cess. If one of us is stripped of parliamentarian immunity, both must be stripped of that immunity. He is a lawmaker, as am I—we are equal,” she added.

For the court to charge any lawmaker, the National Assembly must first vote to remove that lawmaker’s constitutionally guaranteed immunity.

Mr Hun Sen, who is also a lawmaker for Kandal province, and Ms Mu Sochua are both currently protected by that immunity from prosecution.

Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith could not be reached for comment Thursday, while Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was too busy to speak with a reporter.

 

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