Court fines Sam Rainsy $1 million on defamation conviction

Fugitive former Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy was on Friday hit with yet another defamation conviction and fined more than US$1 million for his allegation that Prime Minister Hun Sen bribed a pro-government media activist Thy Sovantha to attack the CNRP, The Phnom Penh Post Online reported.

The allegation stemmed from leaked Facebook messages of discussion between Hun Sen and Sovantha in November, with the prime minister calling the media activist “grandchild” and offering her $1 million.

Sovantha claimed her Facebook page was hacked.

During the hearing on Friday, the court played a 26-minute video from January of Rainsy speaking to his supporters in France in which he was heard saying Hun Sen bribed Sovantha $1 million to do bad things for CNRP.

Rainsy’s laywer, Sam Sokong, said that the court should have a written statement of Sovantha denying the messages or summonsed her to testify in court.

Without Sovantha in court, he suggested that the defamation charge against Rainsy should be dropped.

A legal expert at election watchdog Comfrel, Yoieurng Southeara, said the latest conviction was the same as the cases before and politically motivated.

Mu Sochua, former opposition deputy president who escaped from Cambodia in October said the latest conviction would be another black eye on Cambodia’s justice system.