SRP lawmaker Ho Vann answered questions on June 5 at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court related to defamation and incitement lawsuits filed by 22 senior soldiers who are upset by comments the parliamentarian was reported to have made about the quality of their college degrees.
Following questioning by municipal court Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun, who is pursuing three other government-led defamation suits against an opposition lawmaker and her lawyer, and a newspaper editor linked to the opposition, Mr Vann said that the prosecutor seemed amenable to his explanation of the published comments, which were, he said, “misquoted.”
Mr Vann said that he told the prosecutor that he did not call the post-graduate degrees that RCAF officers received from a Vietnamese military institution in April “worthless,” and that a subsequent letter to the editor in The Cambodia Daily had clarified his comments.
“I didn’t say the certificates were worthless,” he told reporters at the court, adding that the degrees in question should be considered of quality if the knowledge is scientific in nature and used morally.
“I didn’t incite and look down on the army or on anyone,” Mr Vann continued, adding that he didn’t feel intimidated by the lawsuit or worried to speak out as a lawmaker. “We will have expression of opinions as normal,” he said.
Mr Vann’s lawyer, Kong Sam Onn, who is himself currently being sued for defamation by Prime Minister Hun Sen, said that his client was misquoted and that should not be considered a crime.
“Finally, we think that there will be talks to finish this case, I think it was just a misunderstanding,” Mr Sam Onn said.
Contacted by telephone, Mr Roeun said that he hadn’t yet considered what he would do with this latest defamation case against a member of the opposition.
When asked why he was working on multiple government-initiated defamation cases, Mr Roeun declined to comment and hung up the phone.
Tann Mengsroy, one of the lawyers representing the officers in the lawsuit, could not be reached for comment.