Defamation Trial of Cambodian Opposition Leader Opens in Paris

Sam Rainsy has finally received his day in court – but in Paris rather than in Phnom Penh.

A case for defamation brought by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen against the country’s long-time opposition leader opened at the Tribunal Judiciaire in Paris on September 1. Hun Sen brought the case in response to Sam Rainsy’s claims, made on Facebook in 2019, that he was behind the deaths of trade union leader Chea Vichea, killed in 2004 at the age of 36, and former police chief Hok Lundy, who died in 2008.

Hun Sen denies any role in the death of Chea Vichea, who had received death threats before he was shot in front of a newspaper kiosk in the capital by two men on a motorbike. Then-King Norodom Sihanouk stated that the killing had a “political character.” The death of Hok Lundy is attributed by Cambodian authorities to a helicopter accident. A second defamation case against Sam Rainsy filed by deputy police chief Dy Vichea, the son of Hok Lundy and the son-in-law of Hun Sen, is being considered at the same time.

Lawyers for Sam Rainsy argued that the accusations were made in good faith and have a sufficient factual basis. They said in their court submission that Hok Lundy died as a result of a bomb placed in his helicopter on the orders of Hun Sen. This was because Hok Lundy was preparing to reveal that Hun Sen had ordered him to kill Chea Vichea, the submission said. Sam Rainsy and Chea Vichea worked together to create Cambodia’s first trade union.

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