Municipal Court Prosecuting Judge Sao Meach has postponed the defamation trial of Dam Seth, editor of the Moneasekar Khmer newspaper, at the request of the defendant’s lawyer.
The editor, Dam Seth, has been accused of printing misinformation, defamation and insulting National Assembly President Prince Norodom Ranariddh in 10 separate issues of the Khmer-language newspaper. Sun Arun, one of the prince’s three lawyers, said 30 parliamentarians have complained to Prime Minister Hun Sen about the newspaper.
Sun Arun said the lawsuit was not filed against the newspaper itself and that it would be allowed to continue to publish.
At a hearing Friday, Sok Pheng, the attorney representing Dam Seth, threatened to walk out of the courthouse if the trial proceeded even though representatives of the prince were not present. Prosecutor Sok Roeun agreed that the request was reasonable. “The request of the accused’s lawyer is acceptable because the court administrator was slow, and court documents were received late,” he said.
“We will postpone the trial, but next time we will require the presence of both Mr Kol Pheng [one of the prince’s representatives] and Mr Dam Seth,” Sao Meach said. Sun Arun accused Sok Pheng of stalling. “I insist we start the trial now,” he said.
During Friday’s hearing, Sok Pheng requested a probe into the prince’s personal fortune to show the accuracy of the articles accusing the prince of accepting bribes. Sao Meach said there is no law requiring government officials to disclose details of their wealth.
Thach Rein, another of the prince’s lawyers, said Friday that “this is not Prince Rannaridh’s personal issue, it is a national issue. Cambodian journalists are courageous, but lack respect for codes of ethics.”
Sun Arun said the case is about defamation, misinformation, insults and vitriolic wording, and that it has nothing to do with the prince’s wealth. Dam Seth said he had no hard evidence that the prince had accepted bribes. “Corruption is hidden,” he said, when questioned about where the prince got his money. “If the prince dares to reveal how much wealth he has and proves that he is not corrupted, then I will dare to walk into the prison,” Dam Seth said.
Both Kol Pheng and Dam Seth confirmed Sunday that only 100 riel (about $0.02) is at stake in the lawsuit. “Our prince does not think that money for compensation is the main issue,” Kol Pheng said. “He wants only justice.”
to be rich from compensation.”