Rainsy loses defamation appeal
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has lost an appeal against a conviction for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen, who he accused of buying fake “Likes” on Facebook.
The Appeal Court yesterday dismissed the CNRP president’s bid to have the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ruling set aside.
Mr. Rainsy was convicted in absentia by the municipal court in November. He was fined 10 million riel ($2,500) and ordered to pay 15 million riel ($3,750) to plaintiff Som Soeun, a high-ranking ruling party official in charge of the prime minister’s social media outreach.
The panel chairman, judge Samrith Sophal, gave permission for an appeal to the Supreme Court.
Mr. Soeun said outside the court that Mr. Rainsy’s claim was misleading and that his message clearly attacked the ruling CPP.
“I am happy with the verdict announced by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the Appeal Court,” he said.
“Mr. Rainsy took advantage of my reputation and attacked the Facebook page of Prime Minister Hun Sen. This is offensive to me and Facebook users,” Mr. Soeun said.
Mr. Soeun complained that on March 9, 2016, Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page carried a post that wrongly claimed that Mr. Soeun instructed officials, supporters, networks, civil servants, police and soldiers to create fake accounts to provide fake likes on the prime minister’s Facebook page.
Mr. Rainsy’s page said the large number of likes on Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page came from the hiring of unemployed poor people to like the prime minister’s page.
The post from Mr. Rainsy at that time was reportedly explaining a CPP internal message containing five points which were shared by Mr. Soeun to party members on social medium Telegram, but was leaked on Facebook.
In the message, Mr. Soeun urged party members to promote Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Facebook page in all meetings and party member gatherings.
He asked party members to like the page and invite friends to do the same while cutting down on likes on Mr. Rainsy’s page.
Moreover, he asked for a technical working group to be set up to increase the prime minister’s likes.
After yesterday’s hearing, defense lawyer Sam Sokong said the decision was unacceptable and he would talk soon to Mr. Rainsy about taking the case to the Supreme Court.
“As a lawyer, I think this is unacceptable and I will organize another appeal to the Supreme Court to review the case again. I will file the complaint in under a month which is the time limit,” Mr. Sokong said.
As of yesterday, Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook page had more than 6,800,000 likes while Mr. Rainsy’s had more than 3,600,000.
Mr. Rainsy, who is in self-imposed exile, has faced many legal challenges from senior CPP officials, which the opposition party considers as politically motivated to put pressure on the opposition leader.
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