Prime Minister Hun Sen has lodged a legal complaint against a political analyst over comments he made in a recent radio interview where he alleged that the authorities were responsible for the murder of Kem Ley last year.
The legal action against Kim Sok, a Phnom Penh-based political analyst, comes amid heightened political tensions in the Kingdom ahead of local elections planned for June and the resignation of Sam Rainsy, former president of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Sok Eysan, CPP spokesman, told VOA Khmer that the complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, filed on Monday, was in direct response to the analyst suggesting government involvement in the murder of Kem Ley, a prominent political commentator who was gunned down in July in what many Cambodians believe was a politically motivated assassination.
“[Sok’s] comments hurt CPP honor and dignity as well as the government badly. Now he knows clearly, he said clearly without uncertainty, or ambiguity. Now let him find the evidence and bring it to the court. This will end the story,” Eysan said.
Ky Tech, Hun Sen's lawyer, declined to comment for this story. Hun Sen requested $500,000 in compensation as part of the defamation complaint against Sok. He was subpoenaed by the court to appear on Friday.
Sok told VOA Khmer on Sunday that he had expected to face harassment from the ruling party following his comments.
He called on the government to “be brave” and allow the release of security camera footage of the murder scene and to reveal who was ultimately responsible for organizing the killing.
He added that the lawsuit would be brought against him because he had “hit the right point” when talking about the murder and had exposed “their tricks of oppressing people” and “how they have sold the nation.”
Last year, the CPP filed a defamation suit against another analyst, Ou Virak, for saying that the ruling party had used the courts to apply political pressure on the opposition’s then-deputy leader, Kem Sokha.
Hun Sen has also sued several opposition party members related to comments they made about Ley’s killing and has also brought a case against Meas Ny, a social researcher, for criticizing a decision to block opposition lawmakers from questioning three of his ministers in parliament.
Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said Hun Sen was “simply trying to defeat and destroy all opposition forces in the country, even people who are poor.”
“Asking for $500,000 from [Sok] is absolutely ridiculous, and prime ministers should not be doing this when they control the court and the police... it’s simply not fair,” he added.
Hun Sen said in a speech on Monday that Sok would face two years in prison if he could not afford to pay the compensation.
Sok said that although he did not expect a fair hearing, he wanted to show “the people courage and resistance in society.”
“We will resist democratically although this society is not a democracy. We can achieve change, but that change will not be change that can be imposed on any individual. It will be a change for the rule of law.”
Following his appearance on the Hello VOA radio program on Monday, a friend of Sok, Sieng Chin, was briefly detained by Daun Penh district security forces for questioning.
Huot Chan Yarann, chief of Daun Penh police, declined to comment on the arrest, but claimed in an interview with a local radio station that Chin was detained for speeding.