Rainsy Fined For Defamation

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Opposition president Sam Rainsy gestures at a press conference at party headquarters in 2015. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday found opposition leader Sam Rainsy guilty of defamation and ordered him to pay compensation of about $37,500 to Heng Samrin, the president of the National Assembly.
 
Mr. Rainsy was sued for defamation by Mr. Samrin over a video Mr. Rainsy posted on Facebook on November 17, 2015. Under the video clip of a speech by former King Norodom Sihanouk in the early 1980s was the words: “We remember that the regime born on 7 January 1979 used their tribunal to sentence our late King Norodom Sihanouk to death by accusing him of being a traitor.”
 
Four days later, on November 20, 2015, Ky Tech, Mr. Samrin’s lawyer, filed a defamation complaint to the Phnom Penh Court as he believed the claim damaged his client’s reputation and that of the ruling Cambodia People’s Party. He asked the court for 300,000,000 riel (about $75,000) in compensation.
 
Despite the absence of Mr. Rainsy and his lawyer, judge Ros Piseth decided to conduct an hour-long debate in the court hearing with Mr. Tech, the plaintiff’s lawyer, and prosecutor Vong Bunvisoth.
 
Mr. Tech said the complaint mainly focused on the statement Mr. Rainsy posted, adding that the video-footage of King Sihanouk was in a different context and did not support the claim made by Mr. Rainsy. 
 
“When Samdach Heng Samrin was in power in that regime, he did not announce a sentence against the former King. Rainsy came up with this video just to manipulate the public for political gain,” he said.
 
Having no evidence from Mr. Rainsy or his lawyer, the judge showed the court the documents related to Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook posting and the video footage, but then acknowledged the comment was taken out of context.
 
Judge Ros Piseth said Mr. Rainsy was charged with public defamation based on article 305 of the Penal Code. The judge also ordered he pay 150,000,000 riels (about $37,500) in compensation and fined him 10,000,000 riel (about $2,500), which would be added to the state budget.
 
Mr. Rainsy and his lawyer could not be reached for comment.
 
The opposition leader also has other court cases pending. He faces up to 17 years in prison if found guilty of being an accomplice to Sok Hour, who was jailed in August on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s orders for presenting a forged diplomatic treaty with Vietnam in a video posted to Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page.
 
As well as the two complaints, Mr. Rainsy, who is now in self-imposed exile, was stripped of his parliamentary immunity in late 2015 after he was convicted of defaming former Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. 
 
He is also involved in another complaint by Som Soeun, a high ranking official, who has accused him of forging documents and insulting him on Facebook.
 

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