Funcinpec lawmaker Princess Norodom Vacheara will face a defamation lawsuit from Prime Minister Hun Sen for comments she made Friday, the premier’s lawyer said Sunday.
Kar Savuth said he would file the lawsuit today at Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
“The comments of Princess Norodom Vacheara, as reported in The Cambodia Daily on February 15-16, accused Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen of having spoken to the Cabinet meeting and threatening to put her in Prey Sar prison. This was not true,” Kar Savuth wrote in a statement faxed on Saturday from Hun Sen’s Cabinet.
“Excluding the fact that Prime Minister Hun Sen is a parliamentarian, I understand the princess’ comments to be slanderous and intentionally defamatory. I will have documents prepared to complain to the court on this untrue, slanderous, intentionally bad defamation,” he wrote.
Princess Vacheara on Friday said she was considering a lawsuit against Hun Sen for comments he allegedly made at the Council of Ministers on Friday.
Hun Sen allegedly said at the meeting that he would no longer refer to her as a princess, but would instead call her “neang”—the Khmer term for a common lady.
The princess said in an interview on Friday and again at a press conference on Saturday that the prime minister’s comments belittled her and the monarchy. She claimed that Hun Sen had suggested that the princess be put in Prey Sar prison with a “herd” of other people.
Princess Vacheara on Sunday denied she defamed Hun Sen. She said the prime minister must first move to strip her of her parliamentary immunity before he can sue.
“Now he is accusing me…. He wants to change direction,” she said. “The prime minister has the power. He can do anything he wants. [But] I have witnesses and speak what is the truth…. I am responsible for what I said.”
The dispute follows two actions taken by the princess in recent weeks: a visit to Beehive Radio owner Mam Sonando while he was detained at Prey Sar and an invitation to Hun Sen to appear before the National Assembly to speak about the Jan 29 anti-Thai riots.
Princess Vacheara said Sunday that she believes Hun Sen’s comments on Friday were prompted by her invitation, which she said was her right as chairwoman of the Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Commission.
On Wednesday, Princess Vacheara said it was an “insult” that the government proposed to instead send lower-ranking officials Ministry of Interior Secretary of State Prum Sokha and Hun Sen senior adviser Prak Sokhon.
In a speech in Svay Rieng province on Saturday broadcasted by Apsara Radio, Hun Sen said he received a request from the Assembly to either come himself or send a representative.
“But when I sent a representative, they say it is not appropriate. So I can say this is an insult to the government, too,” he said.
The prime minister said Saturday that he has ordered his staff to prepare minutes from Friday’s meeting and other documents, presumably for the lawsuit. He also said that the term “neang” is not an insult to Princess Vacheara.
“But it is too polite for what is troublemaking,” he said. “They say that I threaten to bring them to Prey Sar, but they themselves go to Prey Sar to visit the prisoner.”
Also in the speech, Hun Sen made several references to “big people” and political party “leaders” who let the “small people” carry out their attacks.
“The leaders get along well with each other, but only a few people in the lower levels kick each other,” he said. “That is what causes the loss of trust from people. Please think it over.”
Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh met with the princess Saturday afternoon at the Assembly. Afterward, he told reporters that he would act as a mediator between Hun Sen and the princess.
“I hope that we can facilitate [a solution to] the problem. I told her how it could be handled,” he said. “I still believe that on Saturday and Sunday we can solve the problem as we can do because the lawyer of [Hun Sen] does not bring to the court yet.”
The prince also met with Minister of Public Works and Transport Khy Taing Lim on Saturday to hear more about what Hun Sen said at the Council of Ministers. The prime minister allegedly directed his remarks about Princess Vacheara to Khy Taing Lim at the meeting and asked the Funcinpec minister to pass on the message to Prince Ranariddh.
The prince said he believes Hun Sen did not threaten Princess Vacheara directly, but only said there was a “neang” who would be sent to Prey Sar.
“He did not want to name the princess, although he meant [Princess Vacheara],” the prince said.
In a statement issued by the Royal Palace Saturday, King Norodom Sihanouk—the half-brother of Princess Vacheara—said that Hun Sen did not insult the throne, as the princess had asserted.
“When any member of the royal family decides to enter the political arena, that member has to bear their own responsibility for their inappropriate bravery of their actions and comments. They should not drop their mistakes on others,” the King wrote.
“The verbal disputes between Khmer politicians…are not related to the throne except in the case of when there is an attack on the King, Queen and the institution of the monarchy,” he wrote.