Twelve SRP lawmakers wrote to Supreme Court President Dith Munty on Wednesday requesting disciplinary action against the judge who ordered the prison detention of newspaper editor Dam Sith.
Dam Sith was arrested Sunday, a day the court does not normally work, and remanded into pretrial detention on charges of defamation and disinformation.
The lawmakers said in their letter that defamation has been decriminalized and that Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Chhay Kong had violated the law in his decision to detain the editor.
According to the criminal code, jail sentences are no longer allowed for the charge of defamation. However, the criminal code’s adjoining charge of disinformation still allows for arrest.
“We would like to request His Excellency [Dith Munty] to take measures according to the law against Chhay Kong in order to ensure proper implementation of the law, and for other judges to stop using their position in violation of the law,” the lawmakers said.
Dith Munty, who is also a member of the Supreme Council of Magistracy, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Chhay Kong said by telephone that his decision to detain Dam Sith was “a confidential matter.”
“It is against my profession to speak to reporters,” he added.
The Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee said in a statement Tuesday that Article 62 pertaining to disinformation can only be employed in circumstances where the information “directly affects public security or may cause public insecurity.”
SRP President Sam Rainsy, whose comments led to the defamation lawsuit and detention of Dam Sith, visited the editor of the SRP-aligned newspaper in Prey Sar prison Wednesday.
Sam Rainsy said by telephone that Dam Sith is being treated properly, and that he had asked prison guards if he could take the editor’s place.
“I asked the prison director to release him in exchange for me, but he refused,” he said.
Prey Sar prison Director Mong Kim Heng confirmed Sam Rainsy’s prisoner exchange appeal.
“There is no law to exchange prisoners,” Mong Kim Heng added.