Prime Minister Hun Sen filed a lawsuit against opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Wednesday over comments accusing him of offering $1 million to a young political provocateur to attack the CNRP, and demanded the same sum of money in damages, which he promised to use for charity.
The complaint comes a day after Thy Sovantha, who rose to social media stardom as a CNRP supporter before turning on the party last year, filed a defamation lawsuit against Mr. Rainsy seeking $250,000 in compensation for the same comments accusing her of colluding with the prime minister.
“I would like to inform Your Excellency prosecutor that, as Samdech Techo Hun Sen’s lawyer, I would like to sue Sam Rainsy for his words spoken at a public forum in Paris, France, on January 14, 2017,” reads the complaint, which was signed by attorney Ky Tech and submitted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
The lawsuit then cites remarks Mr. Rainsy made at the event in Paris.
“At that forum, Sam Rainsy said, ‘How about when Hun Sen bribed Thy Sovantha with $1 million? Why did nobody find fault with Hun Sen too? $1 million, we talk about that money, corrupt money…bribing a person to do bad things—to attack, to make trouble for the CNRP, to stage demonstrations.’”
The complaint demands that Mr. Rainsy be charged with defamation and pay 4 billion riel, or about $1 million, in damages to Mr. Hun Sen.
Mr. Rainsy’s comments appeared to refer to screenshots of conversations apparently between two users of the Line smartphone app, who affectionately call each other “grandpa” and “grandchild,” and were posted to Ms. Sovantha’s Facebook page in November before being quickly removed.
The leaks referenced events and individuals close to the prime minister, including his cabinet chief, Ho Sothy, leading many Facebook users to conclude that the conversation was between Mr. Hun Sen and Ms. Sovantha.
“In the past, I wanted to break apart Sam Rainsy from Kem Sokha in 2018, but I see grandpa has deposed Kem Sokha. I see many more chances to break the two of them apart,” says a message from “grandchild.”
“Now there are many chances,” reads the reply. “This is the reason I want grandchild to take this money to keep in your hands.”
“Grandpa sent a telegram to uncle Ho Sothy to have him give grandchild $600,000 more,” it continues. “Total $400,000+$600,000=$1,000,000+you.”
The conversation also included musings on the importance of Mr. Hun Sen’s leadership in ensuring peace in Cambodia.
“The issue of terrorism can’t be underestimated. I understand citizens’ psychology. Even though some of them don’t like the CPP, they believe in me for maintaining peace. If I take a rest, anything can happen, so it’s difficult,” one message said.
Ms. Sovantha filed her defamation suit against Mr. Rainsy on Tuesday, claiming he had infringed on her “honor, fame and reputation.”
Contacted after submitting the lawsuit, Mr. Tech, the prime minister’s lawyer, said Mr. Rainsy’s accusation was baseless.
“This accusation is an exaggeration of the truth and slanders Samdech Techo [Mr. Hun Sen] because Samdech has no relationship with Thy Sovantha,” Mr. Tech said.
The prime minister would use the $1 million compensation to build houses for the disabled in Cambodia, he added.
Mr. Rainsy stood by his statement on Wednesday and said he welcomed the added attention that the prime minister’s complaint would bring to his corruption.
“I welcome Hun Sen’s judicial complaint before Cambodia’s Kangaroo court because any discussion on the substance of the complaint will generate more publicity for Hun Sen’s shameful acts,” he said.
The opposition leader, who has faced numerous charges during his latest stint in exile, said the new complaint did not amount to a denial by Mr. Hun Sen.
“For me the complaint cannot be considered now as a denial: it should have been lodged a long time ago,” he said.
“Too late, too little and too easy!”
sovuthy@cambodiadaily.com, wright@cambodiadaily.com
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