Gov’t Official Removed Pending Investigation

Pheng Vannak, an Interior Ministry officer accused of making a death threat against CNRP Deputy President Kem Sokha, has been removed from his position and will face trial over defamation allegations, the ministry’s spokesman said Wednesday.

Mr. Vannak, deputy chief of the internal security department’s anti-cybercrime bureau, came under fire in December 2013 when a Facebook account bearing his name and image posted a photo of a handgun and seven bullets along with a message saying that each round was destined for a different part of Mr. Sokha’s body.

This month, Mr. Vannak has become embroiled in a separate Facebook saga, in which he is said to have reposted claims that CPP Senator Keo Maly is the mistress of a military general—allegations which have already led to defamation lawsuits against an Information Ministry official and the general’s wife.

“Somebody has filed complaints [against Mr. Vannak] for threatening to kill and public defamation,” Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Wednesday. “The Ministry has transferred him while undertaking an investigation.”

General Sopheak was coy when asked to confirm whether the former complaint was related to the 2013 threat against Mr. Sokha. “Whatever they want to say,” he answered.

Contacted Wednesday, Mr. Vannak, who has been transferred to the Interior Ministry’s personnel department pending the investigations, confirmed that the move was due to complaints made by Mr. So­kha and Ms. Maly.

Mr. Vannak said he was questioned on September 29 by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court over the defamation case against Ms. Maly but maintained that he was innocent in both cases.

“It is an old case and I did not do it,” he said of the alleged death threats against Mr. S

okha. “They created an account to look like my account.”

“I am a law enforcement official,” he added. “I am not so stupid to use my name to intimidate somebody. Let the ministry and experts do their investigation.”

Though no details were available regarding the status of the death threat case, Hing Bunthan, a deputy prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said that a hearing for the public defamation case was set for October 27.

Ms. Maly, the senator, has already taken to court Prum San, an Information Ministry official who posted claims that she was the fourth lover of Lieutenant General Seak Socheat, and Lt. Gen. Socheat’s wife, Mam Manut, who also claimed her husband was having an affair with the senator in a Facebook post.

Now, according to Mr. Vannak, Ms. Maly is claiming $500,000 in damages from him.

“I reject the accusation because they have accused me of disinformation. What disinformation? What defamation?” he said Wednesday, going on to claim that he had merely presented Mr. San’s claims on Facebook.

“I clearly wrote that Mr. Prum San was sued by Her Excellency Keo Maly,” he

said. “And I quoted the reason that Her Excellency had filed a complaint because Mr. Prum San posted information on Facebook.”

Contacted Wednesday, Ms. Maly declined to comment, referring questions to her lawyer, Theng Men Y, who could not be reached.

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