French Court Rejects Cambodian PM’s Claim of Defamation Against Opposition Leader

Exiled opposition figure Sam Rainsy had accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of responsibility for the deaths of a leading Cambodian trade unionist and the former chief of police.

A French court has ruled in favor of Cambodia’s long-time opposition leader Sam Rainsy in a defamation case filed by the country’s Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Hun Sen brought the case in response to Sam Rainsy’s claims, made on Facebook in 2019, that he was behind the deaths of Cambodian trade union leader Chea Vichea in 2004 and former police chief Hok Lundy in 2008. Hun Sen said in Phnom Penh on October 11 that he won’t appeal the French court’s verdict.

The claims made by Sam Rainsy were indeed defamatory but were made in good faith, the court wrote in its judgment. His accusations that Hun Sen was behind the deaths of Chea Vichea and Hok Lundy are “part of a major general-interest debate over respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cambodia,” the judgment states. The court noted that Sam Rainsy has been in forced exile in Paris since 2015, that his opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party was dissolved by Cambodia’s supreme court in 2017, and that it is impossible for him to travel to Cambodia to carry out further investigations.

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