Opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Thursday failed to appear for a second scheduled hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court to answer defamation charges brought against him by co-Minister of Defense Prince Norodom Sirivudh on behalf of Funcinpec President Prince Norodom Ranariddh.
Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, Som Chandina, said that the court, in an unusual move, offered the opposition leader another second hearing.
According to Cambodian law, an arrest warrant is automatically issued if a defendant misses three court dates. The new second hearing has been set for 8:30 am on Nov 26, Som Chandina said.
Sam Rainsy, by e-mail Wednesday from Paris, was vague about his return date, saying he would soon leave for a conference in Helsinki, Finland, and that the exact date of his homecoming depended on “a number of European parliamentarians” who he said would accompany him to Cambodia.
“When there is a storm, you must temporarily take shelter,” he wrote. “Over the last nine months, the SRP has proved to be a real and effective organization that is not too heavily dependent on any person in particular.”
Also Thursday, court officials confirmed that Prince Sisowath Thomico was charged on Wednesday with defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and has been issued a summons to appear in court.
Municipal Court Deputy Chief Prosecutor Nget Sarath said he had sent the case to newly appointed court Chief Chiv Keng, who assigned Iv Kim Sry to be investigating judge.
Prince Thomico left for China on Tuesday after saying Monday he would stay in Cambodia but stage a hunger strike if detained. No warrant for his arrest has been issued, court officials said Thursday.
Asked what the court would do if Thomico missed his hearing date, Nget Sarath said: “That is the mandate of the police.”
(Additional reporting by Michael Cowden)