The Prey Veng Provincial Court on Monday granted a one-week delay in the hearing of a teachers’ union representative charged with defamation following a complaint by a school principal in Peamro district.
Provincial Deputy Prosecutor Chan Darareaksmey said by telephone Monday that he had agreed to delay the trial of Cambodian Independent Teachers Association provincial president Chen Rithy.
The defamation suit stems from a formal complaint that CITA filed with the Education Ministry on May 18, claiming that Neak Leung Secondary School principal Yoeun Sovruthy built a fence through his school’s land in order to incorporate it into his own adjacent property. In early June, Mr Sovruthy filed a complaint to the provincial court accusing Mr Rithy of defamation.
Mr Darareaksmey said that the trial will now be held on Aug 17.
Mr Rithy, who requested the delay so his lawyer could be better prepared for the case, said Monday that he felt that the charges against him were unjust and that he had been careful to gather evidence before making any accusations. He pointed out that 200 villagers had given their thumbprints in support of his complaint.
“It was an injustice to me; what I did was to prevent the loss of state property, not for personal gain,” he said.
Mr Sovruthy accused Mr Rithy by telephone of filing a false complaint.
“Everything that they accused me of was untrue and undocumented.” Mr Sovruthy said, adding that he built the fence in order to protect the school’s land from land-grabbing villagers.
CITA President Rong Chhun defended Mr Rithy, saying that he had acted for the public good and had ample evidence for his complaint.
“It was unreasonable that Chen Rithy was charged with defamation, because he had enough evidence and witnesses,” he said.
Hoeum Sophal, president of the Prey Veng provincial education department, said that Education Ministry officials were still investigating the matter.
“After investigating and meeting, we could not find any documents that proved the school official [stole] school property, but everything is still under investigation by Education Ministry officials,” he said.