In response to comments made earlier in the month by Prime Minister Hun Sen, SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua on Thursday announced at a news conference that she will file a defamation lawsuit against the premier today.
At the news conference, held at SRP headquarters in Phnom Penh, the lawmaker reproached the prime minister for making insulting remarks directed at her during an April 4 speech in Kampot province.
“There is only one law. The prime minister has always said that anyone is equal before the law,” she said. “I, Mu Sochua, sue Mr Hun Sen, as people who have equal rights in front of the law,” she said.
During his speech in Chhuk district earlier this month, the premier said he wouldn’t help villagers who side with the opposition. He then called a woman, without naming her, a “cheung klang,” which literally means “strong legs” but can also be a derogatory term. He also said that in the 2008 election campaign, the unnamed woman had actually hugged someone but later complained that her blouse had been unbuttoned by force.
Last June, Ms Mu Sochua filed an assault complaint with police in Kampot province after a confrontation with RCAF officer San Sman, who she found was using a state vehicle for the CPP’s election campaign. Using state property to promote a specific party is prohibited under the election law. However, when Ms Mu Sochua confronted the army officer he twisted her arm, thus making her blouse buttons come undone.
Ms Mu Sochua said she is only seeking 500 riel in compensation along with a public correction from the premier regarding his comments. She added that her lawsuit against the government’s leader would be a good opportunity for Cambodia’s courts to regain the public’s trust.
“There must be responsibility for the words. Hun Sen is the prime minister, the people’s representative. I respect him as a leader who protects human rights, the rights of others, and the principle of good governance is to take responsibility,” she said at Thursday’s news conference.
Lawyer Kong Sam Onn said the lawsuit would be filed today, but he did not say at which court, adding the premier’s comments were insulting and inappropriate.
“There is evidence and legal documents. It was a public speech; it is undeniable,” Mr Kong Sam Onn said, adding it would be a “cowardly act” to pretend that Ms Mu Sochua was not the target of the premier’s comments.
Mr Kong Sam Onn invited the prime minister to imitate Thai Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya, who issued a public apology after he was quoted in March as calling Mr Hun Sen a “nak leng,” which in Khmer means “thug.”
Information Minister and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said by telephone that the prime minister had not referred to Ms Mu Sochua in his April 4 speech, and had not mentioned a name or even that the woman in question was a lawmaker.
“Who has not had their buttons undone?” Khieu Kanharith said, when asked about the prime minister’s reference to buttons.
CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap also argued there was no evidence the premier had referred to the SRP lawmaker.
“Legally, without clear evidence, the court will dismiss the lawsuit,” he said. “In Kampot, there are 600,000 to 700,000 people, and half of them are women.”