After collecting about 1,200 signatures in five days, SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua said yesterday that she would send a petition to US President Barack Obama today, asking the White House to condemn the Cambodian court verdict that found her guilty of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen last year.
The online petition, titled “Stop Suppression of Speech in Cambodia,” was launched on Thursday in response to the Cambodian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a lower court’s ruling that Ms Sochua defamed Mr Hun Sen by announcing that she planned to sue him for defamation in April last year.
“We will send the petition to our contact at the White House [today],” Ms Sochua said yesterday, adding she had calculated that, on average, 15 to 25 people were signing the petition every hour.
“I am overwhelmed with the support that the petition has received,” she said.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that he did not believe the petition and associated publicity would have a negative impact on Cambodia’s image abroad.
Mr Kuong declined to say how the government might react if the White House made a statement about Ms Sochua’s case.
“We cannot comment, because nothing has happened yet,” Mr Kuong said, adding that he did not think the petition would be well regarded in Washington.
“The petition is worthless,” he said. “Cambodia is an independent state and these are internal affairs. The case has been through the court proceedings…. It has complied with the rule of law.”
Ms Sochua is facing the possibility of having her assets seized, or even being sent to jail, for refusing to pay about $4,000 in court-ordered fines and compensation over the defamation verdict.
Under Cambodia’s election laws, her conviction could also prevent her from running as a candidate at the 2013 national election.
Ms Sochua said yesterday that she would fly out of Cambodia on Thursday for several engagements overseas, but refuted any suggestion that she was “running away” from the authorities. Ms Sochua said that she would return to Cambodia on July 1.
“I am not running away…. I am not going to let my life stop because of the court case,” she said.
While overseas, Ms Sochua will attend the world premiere of the documentary film “Redlight” in New York next Monday.
According to the film’s website, the documentary—narrated by Hollywood actress Lucy Liu—focuses on the stories of Ms Sochua and activist Somaly Mam in their fight against child “sexploitation” in Cambodia.
The invitation to the premiere shows that a list of New York female celebrities are set to attend, including Democratic Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, actresses Ashley Judd and Julia Ormond, and French President Nicholas Sarkozy’s former wife Cecilia Attias.
Lauren Bush, an international model and niece of former US President George W Bush, is also slated to attend.