Social Media Star Ups the Ante in Lawsuit Against Rainsy

A social media star is now demanding $500,000 from opposition leader Sam Rainsy over comments that he made claiming she was offered $1 million by the prime minister to wage a public campaign against the CNRP.

Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking $1 million in a separate lawsuit over the same claims, which were based on what is allegedly a leaked online conversation between the premier and Thy Sovantha, a Facebook celebrity who rose to fame as a supporter of the CNRP.

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Thy Sovantha speaks to reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday after being questioned over her lawsuit against opposition leader Sam Rainsy. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Hun Sen has promised to use any money he wins in the case to build houses for disabled people, and threatened to auction off Mr. Rainsy’s assets—including the CNRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters—if he refuses to pay.

Ms. Sovantha’s lawyer said on Tuesday that his client had doubled the amount she is seeking in damages due to the continued effect of Mr. Rainsy’s claims, which he stands by.

“His defamation has a serious effect on the honor and reputation of the individual. When his defamation keeps going, it has more and more of an effect,” he said.

Mr. Rainsy last posted the claims online, along with screenshots of the conversation in question, on February 2, three days after Mr. Hun Sen said he would ask the court to seize his property.

“They have never been denied by Hun Sen over that period of time, meaning that the public is entitled to believe that these photos effectively reflect the substance of a real exchange involving Hun Sen, especially when it comes to the point concerning a 1,000,000-USD bribe proposed by Hun Sen,” he wrote in an accompanying message.

The images were first posted online through one of Ms. Sovantha’s own Facebook pages, which she said had been hacked.

After being questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, she denied receiving any outside pressure to file the complaint.

“Normally, if you stand still and then someone drives a motorbike and hits you—injuring you and causing a cut on your head, who is pushing you to file a complaint?” she said.

“There is only one who is affected. It is you—yourself.”

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