The office of Prime Minister Hun Sen Wednesday issued a point-by-point rebuttal of allegations that he had a secret love affair with slain actress Piseth Peaklica, and announced his family plans to file a lawsuit against those who “defamed” them.
In a three-page statement, senior adviser Om Yentieng lashes out at the French magazine L’Express and accuses opposition leader Sam Rainsy of a ‘‘slanderous scheme’’ aimed at defaming the prime minister and his wife.
The L’Express article, published last week, accused Bun Rany, Hun Sen’s wife, of hiring assassins to kill Piseth Peaklica after finding out that her husband had a yearlong affair with the movie star and renowned traditional dancer.
Piseth Peaklica, 34, was gunned down in a brazen daylight attack near the O’Russei Market on July 6. No one has been arrested.
‘‘The publication of L’Express dated October 7 about the death of Piseth Peaklica has politically and intentionally charged Chumtev Bun Rany Hun Sen who is innocent and practices Buddhism,” the statement begins. “L’Express has worked on this matter, whether intentional or unintentional, following the slanderous scheme of Sam Rainsy.
“As a victim of this twist Chumtev Bun Rany has decided today to ask the law to find justice both in Paris and Phnom Penh.’’
The statement picks apart the article, and accuses the magazine of leaving out important facts. It also attacks Sam Rainsy in strong terms.
The L’Express article based its account on a diary, allegedly written by Piseth Peaklica detailing the affair with Hun Sen. The article also included interviews with her sister and niece in Europe, and a love poem the magazine says was written by Hun Sen to Piseth Peaklica.
In his statement, Om Yentieng claims that handwriting depicted in the alleged diary—and pictured in the magazine—bears little resemblance to Piseth Peaklica’s actual handwriting. And he said that unnamed film stars who worked on movies and stayed with Piseth Peaklica in the provinces never saw her keeping a diary.
Om Yentieng acknowledges that the love poem was written by Hun Sen. But he claims it was a ‘‘draft’’ written in 1997, and that it was not addressed to Piseth Peaklica.
Bun Rany ‘‘revealed that in the life of her 24 years of marriage to her husband, her husband has not had any relations [love affairs] as charged,’’ Om Yentieng notes at one point.
His rebuttal also takes aim at specific dates listed in the diary. L’Express says the affair began on Aug 18, 1998, citing the diary. But according to Om Yentieng, Hun Sen was recovering from a debilitating operation at that time, and had been told by his doctors that he was not even allowed to gesture.
Because of his health, and an unstable political situation, ‘‘Hun Sen stayed in his residence where he was guarded by four units of bodyguards….He had nothing to do outside his home besides work,’’ Om Yentieng asserts.
The debilitating operation referred to in Om Yentieng’s statement is an emergency appendectomy performed on July 17, 1998, nine days before last year’s national elections.
Om Yentieng also claims that Sam Rainsy’s sister-in-law works at the French magazine, and notes that the article failed to point out that Miech Chandara—Piseth Peaklica’s brother in law—is employed by the Sam Rainsy Party as a bodyguard.
In the magazine article, Miech Chandara’s 7-year-old daughter says Piseth Peaklica whispered that Bun Rany was behind the shooting as she was rushed to the hospital. And in a series of interviews broadcast on Radio Free Asia this week, the sister of Piseth Peaklica talks at length about events surrounding the alleged affair and corroborates charges made in the diary.
Eng Chhay Eang, a Sam Rainsy Party spokesman, said Wednesday that he did not know whether L’Express employs any Rainsy in-laws. When asked if the allegations that Sam Rainsy had engineered the article were true, he said: ‘‘I do not know. I don’t know how L’Express got this information.’’
Finally, Om Yentieng’s statement implies that Miech Chandara was involved in Piseth Peaklica’s murder, stating that he was charged with protecting her, but was absent when she was gunned down by assassins in broad daylight.
The statement also attacked Sam Rainsy for “creating one story after another.” Om Yentieng complained that Sam Rainsy accused the government of involvement after opposition party member Lon Phon was abducted last week.
‘‘This statement not only slandered Hun Sen but gave a signal to the kidnappers to kill the abducted MP. Sam Rainsy would have been happier because it would then have been easier for him to make this event more complicated and it would remain unsolved. Then it would be easy for him to blame those who are innocent.’’
(Additional reporting by Phann Ana)