PHNOM PENH —
The Court of Appeals has upheld a ruling against former leader of the opposition Sam Rainsy over a defamation charge leveled by Prime Minister Hun Sen that could see him pay nearly $4,000 in damages.
Som Seoun, a ruling Cambodian People’s Party central committee member and representative of Hun Sen in the case, filed the suit after Rainsy alleged on Facebook that Hun Sen had paid for followers and “likes” on Facebook.
Somrith Sophal, the appeals court judge, said that “if Mr. Sam Rainsy is not satisfied with the decision, he can appeal to the Supreme Court.”
Speaking at a hearing in January, Seoun said that Rainsy had posted the allegation to tarnish Hun Sen’s reputation.
Som Sokon, Rainsy’s defense lawyer, said the case was brought because the language of the post had been misinterpreted when it was translated into English.
Seoun told reporters that the CPP was happy with the result of the appeal.
Sokong, Rainsy’s lawyer, said the case showed the courts were not acting independently.
“As a lawyer, it is unacceptable to me for the verdict to be upheld. The defense attorney and [Rainsy] will make an appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court for the verdict to be reconsidered.”
Hun Sen has garnered more than 7 million likes, while Rainsy’s page has about 4 million followers.
Rainsy, who is in self-imposed exile in France, has been hit with six other charges since 2015.