Publisher in Court for Defaming Retired King, Queen

The publisher of a pro-SRP news­­paper is due to appear in Phnom Penh Municipal Court today for questioning over articles critical of retired King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Monineath printed last month, Judge Ke Sakhorn said Wednesday.

Sralanh Khmer publisher Thach Keth said Wednesday that he had apologized to the retired King and the Queen, and asked for the withdrawal of the defamation and disinformation lawsuit against him.

Prior to publishing the offending articles, Thach Keth had been unaware that the retired King re­mains constitutionally protected against criticism despite stepping down in October 2004, he said.

“At first, I didn’t know that the retired King could not be touch­ed—I thought this was only for the current King [Norodom Siha­moni],” Thach Keth said. “I am so sorry.”

In two front-page articles published March 15 and 16, the paper published allegations against Prime Minister Hun Sen, Norodom Siha­nouk and Queen Monineath con­cern­ing the Khmer Rouge era.

Thach Keth said that, after re­ceiv­ing a court summons on char­ges of both defamation and disinformation on April 5, he wrote a letter of apology Saturday, which was accepted at the Royal Palace on Monday.

Van Vann, who is in charge of protocol at the Palace, could not be reached for comment.

The retired King announced plans to sue the paper March 18.

Attorney Kar Savuth said he filed the lawsuit against Thach Keth on behalf of Norodom Sihanouk and the Queen. Norodom Sihanouk is not seeking financial damages, only a finding in his favor, Kar Savuth said.

“The demand is to restore the reputations of the King Father and Queen Mother,” Kar Savuth said, adding that he would also not seek a jail sentence for Thach Keth, who he said should “just come [to court] to answer in a normal way.”

Prince Sisowath Thomico, ne­phew and adopted son of Noro­dom Sihanouk, declined to comment on whether the apology might be accepted or the lawsuit with­­drawn.

(Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)


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