Leading dissident Sam Rainsy on Monday filed a civil lawsuit against Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, accusing him of culpability in the murder of Funcinpec General Chao Sambath.
News of the lawsuit came on the eve of the deceased general’s prosecution along with deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh on charges of collusion with the outlawed Khmer Rouge.
The lawsuit, filed by Sam Rainsy on behalf of the general’s widow, Chab Chivoan, cited an August report on human rights abuses compiled by the UN.
A body unearthed in Kompong Speu province last October was identified by family members as that of Chao Sambath, missing since the outbreak of factional fighting in Phnom Penh.
Meanwhile on Monday, news broke that a prosecutor at Kandal Provincial Court had ordered investigations into the slayings of two Funcinpec generals killed in the wake of July’s factional fighting. Sam Rainsy has filed lawsuits accusing Second Prime Minister of their murder.
Prosecutor Chheng Phat on March 6 wrote to the prosecutor at the Phnom Penh Military Court and the Kandal Provincial Police Chief asking them to investigate the executions.
“The two victims were killed by military and police forces following the July 5 and 6 events, [more precisely] on July 7,” the prosecutor wrote.
“Because the lawsuits involve the army and police, I request [the two officials] to order the relevant forces to investigate these cases on the basis of indication contained in the UNCHR report attached herewith.”
The two lawsuits were filed by Sam Rainsy on Feb 23, nominally on behalf of the widows of two murdered generals, Colonel Thlang Chann Sovannarith and Heuv Sambath.
The names of the two men appeared in the UN report among 40 cases in which supporters of deposed first prime minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh were believed executed by security forces loyal to Hun Sen.
Sam Rainsy on Monday hailed the judge’s action in pursuing the case as “politically courageous [and] legally speaking, the right decision.”
“I think this is a very positive sign, very encouraging, especially on the eve of the trial of Prince Ranariddh,” the opposition politician and legal-aid lawyer asserted.
“The court has accepted to deal with the case. It shows that a process has started. It would be difficult for anyone to stop that process. We have very strong evidence; they cannot deny it easily,” Sam Rainsy said, referring to the UN report documenting the executions.
One legal analyst Monday was more muted in his response to the court’s decision, suggesting that investigations ordered by the authorities alleged to be responsible for the killings were unlikely to bear fruit.
“This case isn’t going anywhere,” the analyst said. “It just gives the judge the opportunity to say ‘I’ve done my bit.’ It’s just paperwork. There’s no reason for anyone to be remotely optimistic or happy about this.”