After making conflicting statements earlier this week, the SRP has officially announced that it will stand behind SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua and refuse to pay a fine and damage award stemming from her recently upheld conviction for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen last year.
On Sunday, Ms Sochua and her party seemed divided over the issue, with the lawmaker saying she would refuse to pay, while acting party spokesman Kimsour Phirith said the SRP was collecting money towards the fine.
But the SRP said in a statement yesterday that it would unequivocally support Ms Sochua’s decision not to pay.
“No fine to be paid,” the statement read. “The Sam Rainsy Party supports this position and any statements to the contrary are unofficial.”
Mr Phirith explained the discrepancy yesterday by saying that the SRP standing committee only made a final decision on the issue early this week during a meeting in Manila of party leadership, including SRP President Sam Rainsy.
“Recently, the standing committee has discussed it with her excellency and she will not pay the fine,” Mr Phirith said. “We respect her right.”
Ms Sochua reiterated yesterday in an e-mail from Manila that her stance on the fine had not changed.
“I keep the same stance: I will not pay because I am the victim and have not committed any crime,” Ms Sochua wrote.
She added that she still plans to return to Phnom Penh on July 5, one day after the deadline to pay the fine to the municipal treasury.
Despite the clarification by the SRP, the message had still not filtered down to everyone. Chea Mony, the leader of the Free Trade Union, which has close ties to the SRP, said yesterday he will launch a campaign to collect money from garment workers to pay the fine.
“We will gather the money from garment workers, who love Mu Sochua, to support her to pay the fine,” he said.
By law a fine cannot be paid on someone else’s behalf without his or her authorization, according to Ke Bunleng, director of the municipal treasury, who declined to comment on Ms Sochua’s case.