More Guilty Verdicts Issued in Senator Sex Case

A second pair of defendants was on Thursday found guilty of defaming ruling-party Senator Keo Maly over Facebook posts that summarized claims that she had an affair with a married military general.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court fined Interior Ministry official Pheng Vannak and senior military officer Hang Borey 5 million riel (about $1,250) each and ordered them to pay collective damages of 15 million riel (about $3,750) to Ms. Maly.

Pheng Vannak speaks to reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after being found guilty of defamation. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Pheng Vannak speaks to reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday after being found guilty of defamation. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Both Mr. Vannak and a lawyer for Ms. Maly slammed the verdict, delivered by Presiding Judge Top Chhun Heng.

Mr. Vannak, who was suspended from his position at the Interior Ministry’s internal security department, told reporters outside the courthouse that the decision was a foregone conclusion, given Ms. Maly’s position.

“We knew in advance that the court would not judge based on the law and would not judge based on evidence,” he said. “They judged based on their emotions. They judged based on the influence of the plaintiff’s power.”

Mr. Vannak, a prominent pro-CPP Facebook personality, argued during the trial that he had simply summarized news reports about a previous trial in which Ms. Maly sued an Information Ministry official and the general’s wife for spreading rumors about the affair.

He said on Thursday that the verdict against him illustrated why there was a widespread lack of faith in the judiciary.

“This is why our society today… accuses the courts of being unjust,” he said.

Ms. Maly’s lawyer, Theng Meng Y, said he would discuss appealing the verdict with his client, but that the punishment did not fit the crime, as the senator had been seeking a total of $150,000 in damages.

“Her honor is big and the compensation is small,” he said. “It is not suitable, considering the impact to her reputation and honor.”

In October, the municipal court handed down guilty verdicts against Prum San, deputy director of the Information Ministry’s information department, and Mam Manut, the wife of Lieutenant General Seak Socheat, the partner in the alleged affair.

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