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Still No Lawyer for Opposition Lawmaker

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday disavowed responsibility to find a lawyer for opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, who is defending herself in a defamation suit brought by the prime minister.

Mu Sochua, who is facing a summons from the court for July 24, has been without a defense attorney since her original counsel, Kong Sam On, dropped her as a client when he too found himself sued for defamation by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Mu Sochua had sought help from the Cambodian Defenders Project, but the group said it was mandated to defend the poor and marginalized.

Mu Sochua filed a suit against Hun Sen in April, alleging he had made derogatory remarks in the 2008 general election campaign, a suit dropped by the court following Hun Sen’s countersuit.

Phnom Penh court judge Sem Sakola said in a letter dated July 16 but released to the media Tuesday that Sok Samoeun, head of the Defenders Project, had not requested the court recognize him as defense.

The court also found it did not have a responsibility to find an attorney for the accused.

“I respect the decision of the court,” Mu Sochua told VOA Khmer Tuesday. “The court has fairly followed procedure.”

Mu Sochua said she had no choice but to go to court without a lawyer, having exhausted her options, a process that would be unbalanced.

“I do not have anything to show that I have received justice and equality before the law,” she said.

Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc, said the court had properly decided not to supply an attorney, as the case against Mu Sochua was neither for a serious crime nor against a juvenile.

“The court has no duty to find a lawyer for Mu Sochua,” he said.