Trial Set in Newspaper Defamation Case Over Cost of Hun Sen Scholarship Forms

The editor of Khmer Amatak newspaper will stand trial on Aug 3 for alleged criminal disinformation and defamation over the publication of an article that accused the president of the University of Cambodia of profiting off students who paid to apply for a scholarships named after Prime Minister Hun Sen, lawyers said yesterday.

Bun Tha, editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper Khmer Amatak, narrowly avoided a separate disinformation lawsuit by the Information Ministry on Friday after agreeing to retract an article, which characterized Prime Minister Hun Sen victory in the 1997 factional fighting as a coup d’etat.

Kao Kim Hourn, the university’s president and CPP secretary of state at the Foreign Ministry, sued Khmer Amatak last year after the newspaper published an article claiming that the university had improperly charged students $5 fees to apply for the scholarship to his university.

Sam Sokong, a lawyer for the editor-in-chief, said yesterday that the article in question had relied on statements made by students, who complained that the $5 fee they paid for the scholarship entry form was too high.

“The form should cost 2,500 riel,” or about $0.63, Mr Sokong said in defense of the article’s premise.

Chea Sokchan, a lawyer representing Mr Kim Hourn, said his client was simply asking the court to apply the law, and impose a substantial fine.

“My client has asked that the court convict the paper’s editor under the rule of law and demanded $100,000 in compensation from the paper’s editor,” said Mr Sokchan.

Judge Te Sam Ang said that he planned to review the case file ahead of trial.

Though prison sentences for criminal defamation, or making damaging allegations, have been abolished, the charge carries fines of up to 10,000,000 riel, or $2,500.

Criminal disinformation, defined under the 1992 Untac code as the malicious publication of falsehoods causing or liable to cause public disorder, carries identical fines and a maximum prison term of three years.


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