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Government Critics Abused by Courts: Group

The Cambodia Watchdog Council on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Hun Sen to drop a suit against an opposition lawmaker, claiming the courts are being used to stymie critics of the government.

A rash of defamation suits and criminal cases against incitement have appeared in recent weeks in the courts, including the suit of Hun Sen against Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Mu Sochua, who herself is suing the premier for defamation, for allegedly lewd remarks in the 2008 election campaign.

The head of a non-governmental agency and the editor of an opposition newspaper are also facing lawsuits and criminal offenses in Phnom Penh Municipal Court after offending senior officials, said Rong Chhun, a member of the Watchdog Council.

“Our national leaders do not accept constructive criticism from critics, to consider and to resolve, but the government uses the court system to cover their wrongdoing and has no courage to accept the facts,” he said in a statement. The use of the courts to “pressure and silence critics” was “threatening freedom of expression,” he said.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan denied the charges, saying the government was working to “strengthen the rule of law and protect people’s rights and freedoms.”