Two CNRP officials apologized to the family of former Deputy Prime Minister Sok An on Saturday after calling the recently deceased ruling party leader a “master of cockfighting” in a leaked telephone conversation, while a government spokesman said he planned to sue a CNRP supporter for telling Sok An to “Rest in Hell.”
In a conversation on Thursday, opposition lawmaker Lim Kim Ya called his friend Hing Yoeun, deputy secretary-general of the Senate, to tell him that the “master of cockfighting” Sok An had died the evening before.
“They have strangled citizens to become richer,” Mr. Kim Ya tells Mr. Yoeun, as the two go on to criticize the funeral’s price tag of $750,000, which originally looked like it would be picked up by the state before the CPP said it would cover the cost.
The conversation was posted on the Facebook account under the name Seiha that same day, making it the latest in a slew of unflattering private phone conversations and photographs of CNRP officials posted to the page.
On Saturday, government mouthpiece Fresh News published a letter from the little-known Cambodia Student Technology Association demanding that the two officials apologize, saying that the group had a “right to do everything based on the law to counter your immoral speech.”
The same day, the two CNRP lawmakers issued separate, similarly worded letters addressed to Sok An’s wife apologizing for the conversation.
“Please forgive my mistake during the conversation that I made to affect the honor and dignity of the body of Samdech Vibol Panha Sok An,” Mr. Kim Ya wrote in the letter, using a royally bestowed honorific given to the deputy prime minister just before his death.
Reached on Sunday, Mr. Kim Ya said he apologized because he wanted to “calm the situation.”
“It did not affect the reputation of the party or me because what I said was not public,” he said.
Meanwhile, Vanna Hay, an energy specialist and aspiring politician working in Japan, was unrepentant after posting a series of pictures depicting a memorial photo of Sok An with added text wishing for the CPP stalwart to “Rest in Hell” on the Facebook page of Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan.
On Sunday, Mr. Siphan said that the posts defamed Sok An and “insulted my Facebook page,” adding that he had suffered “a billion teardrops because of losing my hero.”
“If [Mr. Hay] does that to me, I have a right to sue,” he said, promising action this week.
Mr. Hay said on Sunday he was “not even a little bit” afraid of the lawsuit.
“To be honest, I don’t want to speak badly about the dead,” he wrote in a Facebook message.
“The outcome I want is to make our voices be heard to all of those high ranking people to stop doing bad things…so when it turns out to be their turn to die, then our Cambodians will not talk badly about their death anymore if they change themselves to be good government officials.”
However, hours later Mr. Hay’s Facebook account had been taken down and he posted an apology to his Twitter account.
“I apologize to the family of Sok An for my offensive words,” he wrote.