Official Facing Trial Over Facebook Post

An Information Ministry official has been charged with defamation over a Facebook post accusing a CPP senator of being the mistress of a military general, and has been summoned to trial on Monday.

According to the October 5 summons, Prum San, deputy director of the ministry’s information department, posted the offending message about Senator Keo Mally on his Face­book page in July and was charged last month.

“Prum San was charged with public defamation,” the summons says. “The court orders Prum San, 52, to come to stand trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on October 19.”

In an interview Thursday, Mr. San said he was approached by Mam Manut, the wife of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Lieutenant General Seak Socheat, several months ago and that she told him she suspected her husband was having an affair with the senator. She then asked for his help in stopping the general’s attempts to divorce her and take custody of their two children, he said.

The deputy director said he agreed to make the alleged affair public on his Facebook page because he felt sorry for Ms. Manut, who also told him that her husband had moved out of their house and was refusing to support her financially.

“I agreed to help her because Mr. Socheat is a general and he has a lot of money, so why did he leave his wife and two children and let them live in a poor condition?” he said.

Mr. San said his post, which has been taken down, did not amount to defamation because the information was all true, but that he would honor the summons.

“I will go to the court as summoned,” he said. “I am not worried about the lawsuit even though the complainant has a lot of money to bribe the court to win. I will go because I want to know what decision the court will make.”

Ms. Mally on Thursday denied having an affair with the general, who heads the military’s border department, and said she was demanding $500,000 in damages.

“I will not excuse this person,” the senator said. “I asked this person to explain his Facebook post, but he refused and he told me he has evidence to prove I was having an affair with His Excellency Socheat.

“I told my lawyer to demand $500,000 in damages. I don’t think it’s too much because I am a senator and this person destroyed my reputation.”

Ms. Manut, the general’s wife, confirmed that she had asked Mr. San for help and said that she suspected her husband of cheating on her because of photos he posted online showing him and Ms. Mally together.

“I am not sure if my husband is really having an affair with Ms. Keo Mally,” she said. “But I saw photos of my husband and Ms. Keo Mally together when they went to stay for a few days in Kampot province.”

Ms. Manut said that she, too, had been charged with defamation in the case and would attend Monday’s trial as summoned.

Lt. Gen. Socheat could not be reached for comment.

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