Prime Minister Hun Sen has denied a rumor that his son, Hun Manet, was the illegitimate offspring of his wife, Bun Rany, and a Vietnamese revolutionary leader.
The rumor has been circulating on social media, with some supporters of Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s party blaming supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party for spreading the rumor.
“But I don’t think that the opposition would do cheap acts like this,” Hun Sen said in a recent speech. “I don’t expect it. So I must maintain an attitude as I said previously, that if you do not allow me to live in peace, I will not let you have peace.”
Hun Sen said Manet had sent him a text message suggesting he have an DNA test performed to establish the truth and that if he was found to be Hun Sen’s biological son the opposition “should withdraw from politics” and “if I am not your son we can withdraw from politics.”
Hun Sen reportedly told Manet to ignore the rumor, which he did not attribute to a specific individual or opposition group.
Yim Sovann, a CNRP spokesman, denied any suggestion the party was behind the rumor.
“The CNRP strongly maintains the culture of respecting human dignity,” he said. “We uphold the One Khmer policy, meaning we don’t view any Cambodians as the enemy, and we especially don’t use personal issues as political issues.”
However, Sok Sam Oeun, a prominent human rights lawyer, said the allegation amounted to defamation under Cambodian law.
“The people who post or share [the rumor] should be cautious because this issue could be filed as a [defamation] case,” he said.
Social media users alleged that Manet was the son of Le Duc Tho, a Vietnamese revolutionary and military general, who was involved in the administration of Cambodia after the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
Since a détente following the 2013 election broke down last year, numerous opposition members and supporters have faced court proceedings, including CNRP president Sam Rainsy and deputy president Kem Sokha.
An alleged sex scandal is currently being pursued by the courts against Sokha, which has seen several rights workers and an election official charged with bribery. Sokha this week missed a scheduled court appearance in relation to a $1 million defamation claim lodged by social media maven Thy Sovantha.
The opposition has claimed such cases are the latest attempt to silence the party and its supporters in preparation for local elections in 2017 and the next general election in 2018.
However, the ruling party maintains the courts are independent and implementing the rule of law.