By: RFA 2010-06-08
Two fierce political foes in Cambodia clash again.
PHNOM PENH—Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen and a firebrand MP convicted of slandering him appear headed for a public showdown, with the lawmaker facing six months in jail unless she pays a fine upheld by the country's Supreme Court.
"Mu Sochua was in the wrong . The court has punished her and ordered her to pay a fine, and she must respect the court's decision," Hun Sen's lawyer, Ky Tek, said in an interview Tuesday.
"If she refuses, the prosecutor will take the next step—meaning she will be forced to pay or will go to jail."
But the Kompot province MP Mu Sochua said separately she won't pay the fine and is prepared for jail.
Hun Sen initially sued Mu Sochua for defamation after she accused him of making derogatory remarks about her.
Mu Sochua has called on international donors to scrutinize Cambodia's legal system and could take her case to the Constitutional Council after the country's highest court upheld her conviction for defaming the prime minister.
"I have been found guilty of a crime that I have not committed at all. This is not justice," Mu Sochua, of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party and a former women's minister, told reporters.
She was convicted last year for defaming Hun Sen during an April news conference, in which she announced plans to sue the premier for allegedly insulting her.
The ruling is a "travesty," she said, while refusing to pay a court-ordered U.S. $4,000 fine after losing her final appeal June 2.
"This is justice for sale, and this is justice for powerful people only."
"I reaffirm that I will not pay. My conscience does not allow me to pay a single cent," she said.
"But my conscience is the conscience of the Sam Rainsy Party, which struggles for justice. Just arrest me anytime."
"The lower, appellate, and supreme courts didn't take all elements of facts into their consideration . This court system isn't credible," she said.
She has appealed to international donors to investigate the Cambodian legal system and to Suriya Subedi, U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, who is visiting the country.
Ky Tek, representing Hun Sen, argued in court that Mu Sochua had damaged Hun Sen's reputation.
Chief Judge Khim Pon agreed, upholding lower-court rulings he said were in accordance with Article 114 of the Cambodia's Penal Code.
Mu Sochua's lawyer quit the case and joined the governing party after Cambodia's bar council accused him of malpractice.
The courts dismissed her complaint and the National Assembly voted to lift her parliamentary immunity from prosecution so the prime minister's case could go ahead.
Chan Saveth, from the local human rights group ADHOC, said the court's decisions would damage respect for rule of law in Cambodia.
The Cambodian government has faced sharp criticism from rights groups for launching a number of defamation and disinformation lawsuits against critics and opposition members.
New York-based Human Rights Watch recently accused Hun Sen's government of aiming to silence political opposition and critics with a "campaign of harassment, threats, and unwarranted legal action."
Donors last week pledged a record U.S. $1.1 billion in aid for this year during a two-day conference.
But rights groups say donors should take a tougher stance to weed out corruption and diversion of funds.
Original reporting by Kim Peou for RFA's Khmer service. Translated from the Khmer by Vuthy Huot and Leng Maly. Khmer service director: Sos Kem. Executive producer: Susan Lavery. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.