Phnom Penh Municipal Court has summoned SRP lawmaker Ho Vann for questioning over his criticism of post-graduate degrees awarded by a Vietnamese military institute to senior RCAF officials in April.
The Phnom Penh lawmaker said Friday that he had received the summons on Thursday to appear at the court on June 5 over his remarks that questioned the academic value of the degrees and appeared in a newspaper article.
According to the summons, which was signed by municipal court Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun on May 25, Mr Vann will be questioned over allegations of “defamation and incitement to cause a felony-misdemeanor crime successfully, and incitement to cause felony-misdemeanor crime unsuccessfully.”
The lawsuit was filed by two lawyers, Kheng Ly and Tann Mengsroy, on behalf of the 22 RCAF officers who received the degrees from the Vietnamese military, according to the summons.
Mr Roeun declined to comment about the case on Friday and hung up his telephone when contacted for comment.
Mr Vann said that he had committed no crime, adding that he had clarified his statements with a letter to the editor in which he stated that the degrees to the Cambodia officers were, by and large, appropriate. The lawsuit surprised him, Mr Vann said.
“I am not at fault. I have already corrected everything,” Mr Vann said, referring to his clarification letter. “I didn’t expect that they would sue me. I am still wondering about it,” he added.
“I said that the certificates are valuable, meaning three things,” he said, explaining that the recipients should have obtained scientific knowledge in the process, that such knowledge can be effectively used, and that such use is done so with high morals in mind.
Mr Vann also said that he not named anyone in relation to his comments.
“I spoke in general, I didn’t refer to anyone,” he added.
Prime Minister Hun Sen is currently defending himself against a defamation lawsuit lodged by SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua on the grounds that remarks he made in a speech, which were considered insulting, were not directed at anyone by name and thus were not defamatory of anyone.
Newly appointed RCAF Commander in Chief Pol Saroeun, who was among the 22 officials who received the degrees, declined to comment on the lawsuit against the opposition parliamentarian, while his attorney, Mr Mengsroy, said he was too busy to comment on Friday.
News of the RCAF officers’ lawsuit follows closely after another defamation lawsuit was reportedly lodged by Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema against SRP President Sam Rainsy.
Leading Khmer-language newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily quoted Mr Chuktema on Friday as saying that he had filed the suit on May 27 due to Mr Rainsy’s allegations that the governor was involved in efforts to buy votes for the CPP in the election.
A man answering the Mr Chuktema’s phone on Friday said that the governor was in a meeting. Municipal Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun said that he, too, was only aware of the lawsuit from the press and declined to comment.
SRP Parliamentarian Yim Sovann said on Friday that Mr Rainsy is visiting the US.
The two lawsuits, and three if Mu Sochua`s case is included, are meant to intimidate the opposition party but would fail, Yim Sovann said.
“Overall, this is systematic intimidation, the use of the courts to in-
timidate. I would like to respond that it is useless,” he said, adding that the opposition party was used to such tactics.
As the governor, Mr Chuktema should focus on solving important issues in the capital city such as the economic crisis, unemployment, debts to foreign banks and plummeting land prices, he said.
“He should solve [these problems] rather than suing, which is useless.” Government spokes-
man and Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said that he was unaware of Mr Chuktema’s lawsuit against the opposition leader.
Regarding Mr Vann’s lawsuit, the minister said that the SRP lawmaker did not understood how hard the soldiers had worked for their degrees.
“Has Ho Vann ever known ab-
out what the military had done?” he asked. “When people study for bachelor degrees or whatever, at least it requires serious effort,” he added.