Soy Sopheap Summoned for Questioning in Defamation Suit

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has summoned pro-government media personality Soy Sopheap for questioning over allegations that he defamed Son Sann by claiming the former prime minister had sold land surrounding Preah Vihear temple to Thailand in the 1980s.

Mr Sopheap, director of Deum Ampil News and a presenter on government-aligned Bayon TV, made the statements about 4.6 square km of disputed land around the temple in a Feb 4 broadcast, attributing the in-formation to an unidentified source.

Son Sann served the Cambodian government for decades, including as prime minister from 1967 to 1968. He also founded the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front in 1979 at the Thai-Cambodian border, fighting both the Khmer Rouge and the Viet-namese army during the 1980s. He died in 2000.

“The court summons Soy Soph-eap for questioning on March 30 over Son Soubert’s defamation lawsuit,” deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot said yesterday, adding that Son Sann’s son, Son Soubert, had filed a defamation suit last month.

Mr Sopheap yesterday did not directly answer questions about the truth of the statements, but said he had recently “clarified” them twice on television, discussing Son Sann’s heroism. He said his source, whom he declined to name, was responsible for the statements.

“I did not say by myself, but I cited from a source,” he said, adding that he received the court summons yesterday and planned to obey it. “I think that this case is not a big problem.”

Mr Soubert said that he had not seen the clarifications, but that Mr Sopheap’s statements confused Cambodians regarding his father’s role in the country.

“Soy Sopheap said that Samdech Son Sann signed a document with Khieu Samphan to sell land around Preah Vihear to Thailand,” he said.

Mr Soubert’s lawyer Khan Ser-eyvuthy said the statement clearly contradicted known facts about Son Sann, but it would now be up to the court to settle the matter.

“Soy Sopheap disrespected Son Sann, who was a patriot and…even demanded some provinces from Thailand for Cambodia,” he said. “Soy Sopheap’s statements insulted Son Sann’s reputation.”

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