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Minister Drops Suit Against Opposition Editor

Foreign Minister Hor Namhong announced Friday he will drop his defamation suit against an opposition newspaper editor who was jailed for a week earlier this month.

Hor Namhong said he was dropping his suit against Dam Sith because he did not want to interfere with the political atmosphere ahead of general elections.

The defamation suit, filed in April, stemmed from a story published in Dam Sith's newspaper, Moneaksekar Khmer, which quoted opposition leader Sam Rainsy accusing the foreign minister of involvement in the Khmer Rouge. Dam Sith spent a week in jail following Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigations, worrying observers that press freedom was eroding ahead of July's national election.

"I am very happy to drop the complaint against Dam Sith, in the spirit of compatriotism," Hor Namhong told reporters Friday, following an hour-long meeting with Dam Sith at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "I told Dam Sith that although we occupy different political tendencies, we are all Khmer, and this compromise will lead to a good atmosphere for the election."

Hor Namhong said he would officially request the court to drop the case.

"Hor Namhong doesn't want to be reminded of the past," Dam Sith said following the announcement Friday. "He decided to drop his complaint against me."

"I did not apologize to Hor Namhong," he said of the meeting, "but I only asked that he compromise and he get his complaint out of court, so that I have the right to walk around without restriction."

Um Sarin, president of the Cambodian Association for the Protection of Journalists, called the minister's decision a "positive step" and "good example for other high-ranking officials."