PHNOM PENH - Pressure continues for a senior opposition party official to apologize for alleged remarks that has upset victims of the Khmer Rouge.
Chhum Mey, an outspoken survivor of the regime’s infamous Tuol Sleng prison, told VOA Khmer Tuesday that he intends to sue Kem Sokha, vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, unless an apology is forthcoming for the latter’s alleged claims that the crimes of the prison were staged by Vietnamese forces after they ousted the Khmer Rouge.
“Now I will wait for any response from Kem Sokha,” Chhum Mey said.
Kem Sokha has denied making such claims and refused to apologize, despite a demonstration held in capital on Sunday. Rescue Party spokesman Yem Bonnarith said Kem Sokha too is a victim of the Khmer Rouge.
Chhum Mey’s threat appears related to a new law hastily passed by the National Assembly last week that criminalizes denials of Khmer Rouge atrocities.
Critics say the law was passed by ruling party officials after allegations were made against Kem Sokha, in an effort to discredit the opposition ahead of July’s national elections, a claim ruling party officials deny.
However, Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, a legal organization, said there would be no punishment under that law because it was passed after his alleged remarks. “That law is unnecessary for now,” he added.
Other legal experts said this week the law appeared to have been ordered by Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of the July elections.
The law was passed by the National Assembly, which is dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, following the expulsion of 27 opposition lawmakers who have joined the Rescue Party.
Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the law was drafted “to target Kem Sokha and to divert voter attention away from national issues, like deforestation, corruption, infrastructure and land grabs.”
Seven years ago, Hun Sen’s main political opponent, Prince Norodom Ranarridh, was similarly targeted under a law that criminalized polygamy, Ou Virak said.
Son Chhay, an opposition lawmaker, called the legislation “unlawful.”