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Hun Sen, Opposition Lawmaker in Court Battle

Prime Minister Hun Sen and an opposition lawmaker exchanged defamation lawsuits in Phnom Penh court Monday, each side claiming damaged reputations from the other.

National Assembly lawmaker Mu Sochua, a representative of the opposition Sam Rainy Party in Kampot province, claims Hun Sen defamed her during a speech in the 2008 national election campaign.

Hun Sen claims a press conference held by Mu Sochua last week, accusing him of defamation, was also defaming.

“This morning I filed a lawsuit at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for defamation, following Article 63, based on what Prime Minister Hun Sen said in public on April 4, 2008, in Kampot,” Kong Som An, lawyer for Mu Sochua, said Monday.

The lawsuit alleges that Hun Sen’s remarks about a “strong-lady” in Kampot province, “making trouble,” were directed at Mu Sochua, and subsequent remarks about a conflict between the lady and an unnamed official, which led to a torn blouse, were defamation.

Ky Tech, a lawyer for the government, said he too had filed a complaint in the municipal court. He declined to give detailed information from the complaint. “We’ll let the court process the case,” he told VOA Khmer.

As a member of the National Assembly, Mu Sochua enjoys parliamentary immunity, but officials say it can be suspended if she is called to court. Hun Sen, as a representative of Kandal province, also has immunity that could potentially be stripped.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Mu Sochua was spreading misinformation that had led to criticism from the international community, which the countersuit seeks to mitigate.

Phnom Penh court officials could not be reached for comment.

Seng Theary, executive director of the Center for Social Development, appealed to both side to drop the lawsuits.

“Both sides suing each other gains nothing,” she said.