PHNOM PENH —
Prime Minister Hun Sen has said he will seize the opposition party’s headquarters and the assets of its exiled leader, Sam Rainsy, as compensation in an ongoing defamation case.
Hun Sen also said on Tuesday that Rainsy could be banned from leading a political party.
The premier on January 18 filed a $1 million compensation claim as part of the defamation suit against Rainsy for allegedly claiming that Hun Sen had paid a popular political and social media activist to attack Rainsy’s party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Hun Sen made the announcement during a parliamentary debate to repeal Article 48 of the National Assembly regulations which would further strip powers from the opposition.
He said, if the court ruled in his favor, “I will freeze the assets and request protection, and then I will sell the entire asset. The opposition party headquarters under the ownership of Mr. Sam Rainsy will be on sale.”
Rainsy, who went into self-imposed exile in France in 2015, wrote on his Facebook page and on Twitter that Hun Sen’s comments were a sign of “panic” ahead of elections in June and next year.
“Hun Sen can no longer appeal to electorate, so personally hounds me, as symbol of resistance to autocratic, corrupt power,” he wrote.
Meas Ny, a social analyst, said the comments indicated that Hun Sen was expecting to win the case against Rainsy; further evidence, he said, of the judiciary being under his control.
“The prime minister knows that he will win since the judicial system is under his control. As what we have witnessed, the court follows what the prime minister says. In this case, he already knows that the court will not let him lose.”
Hun Sen has previously filed several separate lawsuits against opposition members.