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Gov’t Critic Handed 18-Month Jail Term, Ordered to Pay PM $200,000

FILE - Kim Sok told reporters that he's unable to pay the compensation owed to Prime Minister Hun Sen, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. (Hul Reaksmey/VOA Khmer)

Kim Sok, 36, accused Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party (CPP) of being behind the July 2016 murder of government critic Kem Ley.

A government critic who allegedly implied senior ruling Cambodian People’s Party officials were involved in a cover up of the assassination of prominent political analyst Kem Ley last year has been sentenced to 18 months in jail.

Ky Rithy, Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge, issued the verdict on charges of “inciting criminal action and public defamation” on Thursday.

He said that Sok, a relatively unknown analyst himself, had admitted to making comments that broke the law in a Radio Free Asia interview in February, in which he also implied the high-ranking officials were involved in covering up the killings of a number of other well-known activists and dissidents, such as Chea Vichea, a unionist, and Chut Wutty, an environmentalist.

Choung Chougy, Sok’s lawyer, said the court’s decision was unjust, adding that his client had submitted requests to Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is the plaintiff in the case, to appear in court, which had been ignored.

“When Kem Sok is sentenced for commenting on the radio, it will cause other people to be afraid and not dare to provide analysis or opinions in newspapers or on radio stations,” he said.

In addition to the jail term, Sok was ordered to pay about $2,000 in fines to the state and some $200,000 in personal compensation to Hun Sen.