The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday dismissed the defamation lawsuit filed by SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua against Prime Minister Hun Sen, while a lawyer for the premier said that the court has requested that Ms Sochua’s parliamentary immunity be lifted so that the premier’s counter lawsuit can proceed.
The dismissal comes less than two days after court officials questioned the prime minister at the Council of Ministers, as is outlined in penal code procedures, over a claim by Ms Sochua that the premier had defamed her in an April 4 speech in Kampot province.
Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Hing Bun Chea wrote to Ms Sochua’s lawyer Kong Sam Onn, informing him that his client’s case against the prime minister had been rejected.
“Hing Bun Chea, representative of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor, would like to in-
form Mr Kong Sam Onn of the Cambodia Lawyers Services Office…we have dismissed the case,” a copy of the letter to Mr Sam Onn stated.
The deputy prosecutor could not be reached for comment and, while the letter does not elaborate as to why the case was dropped, Ms Sochua said that the dismissal was proof that the country’s judicial system is under the government’s thumb.
“This is obvious that the judicial system is under government pressure. People are becoming the victims of the judicial system,” Ms Sochua said by telephone on Wednesday afternoon. “This is a danger for human rights protection,” she said.
Ms Sochua added that the deputy prosecutor could not have properly investigated the prime minister’s statement on Monday, as the court’s decision was rendered just over a day after the questioning of the premier had taken place.
“This is very unjust. I have all the evidence and [the prime minister] even acknowledged that he made those comments [on April 4],” she said, adding that she will appeal the decision.
Mr Sam Onn, who is also being sued by the prime minister, said by telephone that the court’s decision to dismiss his client’s lawsuit wasn’t in accordance with the law.
“This decision is against the law because we have presented the lawsuit with all legal foundations,” Mr Sam Onn said, adding that the deputy prosecutor must now answer for his decision to drop the high profile case.
“He must show us the reasons for the dismissal,” Mr Sam Onn said.
Ky Tech, the premier’s lawyer, welcomed the municipal court ruling.
“This is justice,” Mr Tech said by telephone.
The former bar association president also said that he heard that the court’s Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun had asked the Ministry of Justice to request that the National Assembly strip Ms Sochua’s parliamentary immunity so that she may be tried in court for the defamation lawsuit filed against her by the prime minister.
A man answering Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana’s phone, who only identified himself as the minister’s assistant, said he was unaware of Mr Roeun’s request.
Mr Roeun could not be reached for comment.
Ms Sochua’s lawsuit was triggered by a speech made by the premier in Kampot on April 4.
In that address, the prime minister attacked the opposition party and followed up his remarks by calling an unnamed prominent woman in the province a “cheung klang,” which literally means “strong legs,” but when applied to a woman can mean prostitute. He also said during the speech that the unnamed woman had hugged someone during the 2008 election campaign, but then complained about her shirt being forcibly unbuttoned.
Though the premier never mentioned anyone by name, Ms Mu Sochua believes that the comments were directed at her.
Ahead of last year’s national election, a dispute between Ms Mu Sochua and RCAF general led to a physical struggle that resulted in her blouse being torn open by the officer. That matter is also before the courts.
At a news conference on April 23, Ms Sochua and her lawyer, Mr Sam Onn, announced that they were filing a lawsuit against the prime minister for defamatory remarks during the April 4 speech.
On April 27, the same day Ms Sochua filed her lawsuit against the premier, the prime minister filed his own defamation complaint against the lawmaker on the grounds that accusing him of defamation had, in fact, defamed him. Two days later the prime minister filed a similar lawsuit against Mr Sam Onn.
Mr Tech said on Wednesday that Ms Sochua had gone too far when she publicly stated that the premier had defamed her.
“She voiced an assumption before the court’s decision.”