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Bar Must Be Neutral, Rights Watchdog Says

The Cambodian Bar Association must remain neutral and unbiased as the government pursues a defamation case against an attorney for the opposition party, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission said Friday.

The attorney, Kong Sam On, is facing a countersuit by Prime Minisister Hun Sen, following the pursuit of a defamation case against the premier on the behalf of Mu Sochua, an opposition lawmaker for the Sam Rainsy Party.

The Cambodian bar, until recently led by a controversial president, Ky Tech, has suspended Kong Sam On’s license to allow the court’s to investigate the case. Ky Tech is also the attorney for Hun Sen.

Mu Sochua alleges that Hun Sen made disparaging remarks about her in the run-up to the 2008 National Assembly election, a charge repeated by Kong Sam On at a press conference in April. Hun Sen countersued both of them, also for defamation.

In an April 30 letter to the bar, Ky Tech said comments made by Kong Sam On at the press conference were a violation of the code of ethics for lawyers.

The bar’s current president, Chiv Song Hak, said the bar was now looking into Kong Sam On’s case.

“The Bar should stand neutrally for all lawyers,” Kong Sam On said.