The Supreme Court yesterday upheld two lower court verdicts to convict former opposition leader Sam Rainsy of defamation and order him to pay about $1 million to Prime Minister Hun Sen for alleging that the premier bribed pro-government activist Thy Sovantha to attack the opposition.
Mr Rainsy’s accusation stemmed from messages leaked from Ms Sovantha’s Facebook account in November 2017, in which Mr Hun Sen allegedly offered her $1 million to conduct activities against the opposition party.
Presiding Judge Kim Sathavy yesterday rejected Mr Rainsy’s appeal and said the verdicts by the two other courts – the Appeal Court and Phnom Penh Municipal Court – were correct.
Mr Rainsy has faced several lawsuits from Mr Hun Sen and from the president of the National Assembly Heng Samrin for defamation, leading to his exile in France.
Ky Tech, lawyer for Mr Hun Sen, said he would seek an order from Phnom Penh Municipal Court to seize Mr Rainsy’s house in Phnom Penh, which was the now-dissolved CNRP’s headquarters, for compensation.
“Because Mr Rainsy is not in the country, it is hard to demand compensation,” Mr Tech said. “Therefore, I will ask for an order to confiscate his property and see if the court would consider having his house put on auction to compensate my client.”
He noted that a 26-minute video of Mr Rainsy talking to his supporters in France, saying Mr Hun Sen bribed Ms Sovantha, affected the reputation of his client.
Sam Sokong, lawyer for Mr Rainsy, yesterday said the decision was unacceptable and unjust, noting that he will request the court to review his client’s appeal.
“I will discuss this matter with my client and figure out what legal means we have to seek a review on the appeal,” Mr Sokong said. “I will ask the court to review the decision.”
Former opposition lawmaker Ou Chanrath said Mr Hun Sen and Mr Rainsy should both find a way to solve their disagreements, noting filing court complaints against Mr Rainsy would only discredit the government.
“I am disappointed about this. I think both of them just want to win – this is clearly a personal matter that ended up in court,” Mr Chanrath said. “Both leaders should end their games.”