SRP Defamation Suit Against Officials Spurned

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by opposition party Se­cretary-General Eng Chhay Eang against three education officials who allegedly called opposition leader Sam Rainsy a national traitor, Eng Chhay Eang’s lawyer Mao Sophearith said Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed last month, had al­­leged that Higher Education As­so­ci­ation President Seng Phally, as­so­ci­ation Director In Viracheat and Youk Ngoy, dean of the Royal Un­i­ver­­­sity of Law and Economic Sci­ence, defamed Sam Rainsy by calling him a traitor during a news con­fer­ence, Eng Chhay Eang said at the time.

The news conference came short­­­ly after signs appeared at schools and academic institutes around Phnom Penh denouncing the opposition leader and questioning his nationality.

Youk Ngoy and Seng Phally de­clined comment Tuesday, while In Vi­­racheat said he was too busy with meetings to talk to a reporter. Eng Chhay Eang was also unavailable for comment. In Viracheat de­nied in September that he had ac­cused Sam Rainsy of being a traitor.

Municipal Court Chief Pro­se­cu­tor Ouk Savouth, who Mao So­phe­a­rith said dismissed the case, hung up when contacted by a reporter.

Mao Sophearith said the court’s re­jection of the lawsuit indicated double standards, given the cases of Mam Sonando of Beehive Radio and Rong Chhun of the Cambo­di­an Independent Teachers’ Asso­ci­a­tion, who were arrested earlier this month after being accused of de­faming Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Eng Chhay Eang’s case “is a cri­mi­nal case, and [the court] didn’t even do an investigation,” Mao So­phe­arith said. “In the cases the government has brought against Rong Chhun and Mam Sonando, they have found no evidence yet, but they just arrested them.”

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith declined comment.

Opposition lawmaker Son Chhay accused the court of inconsistency.

“The court always finds a way to make sure whoever the government accuses will be arrested, but not the other way around,” he said.

“It is easy for the government, the ruling party, to charge their op­po­nents even though the lawsuits are not legally good enough,” he added.


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