Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on Monday said he took legal action against opposition figure Sam Rainsy to remind politicians to act with “dignity, morality and virtue”, and to stop them releasing “fake news and incitements”.
Sar Kheng, who is also deputy prime minister, took to Facebook on Monday to explain his decision to file a complaint against Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Sar Kheng said the lawsuit against Rainsy was the first he had ever privately lodged.
“The decision to file this legal complaint is to remind certain politicians to behave professionally, adhering to the values of dignity, morality and virtue."
“They must also stop releasing fake news intended to incite ill will and slander people in an attempt to break their unity. This is done only to fulfil their own selfish ambitions and those of their groups,” Kheng said.
He said that his complaint was intended to seek justice for him and all other victims of Rainsy’s false allegations.
“I would like to appeal to all politicians to abide by their conscience and place national interests before any action against the best concerns of the Kingdom and its people, or that may lead to a polarisation of society,” Kheng stressed.
Last week, three lawyers representing Sar Kheng filed a complaint with Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Rainsy for his claim that Dy Vichea, a son-in-law of Hun Sen and son of former police chief Hok Lundy, was seeking revenge, which Sar Kheng supported, against the prime minister over the death of his father.
Rainsy claimed the helicopter crash in 2008 that killed Lundy was orchestrated by Hun Sen.
Sar Kheng called on the court to hand Rainsy a tough sentence and demanded $1 million in damages.
Rainsy told The Post via email on Monday that any verdict from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which he called an “instrument of the rulers”, would be worthless as the poor and weak always lost there.
“I understand that Sar Kheng has filed a complaint against me with the kangaroo court just to follow Hun Sen’s orders."
“If you want to make people believe that you [Sar Kheng] are not splitting from Hun Sen as Sam Rainsy has claimed, you must file a complaint against Sam Rainsy,” the CNRP co-founder said.
Sok Touch, the president of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said Sar Kheng was right to file the lawsuit against Rainsy.
Firstly, he said that if Sar Kheng did not do so, it would confuse the public and make them think he might have been colluding with Dy Vichea against Hun Sen.
“Secondly, it is to stop [Rainsy] from inciting without reason or basis. The complaint is to seek justice through the courts,” Touch said.
However, he said the lawsuit would not stop Rainsy from creating further “fake news” because were he to be found guilty, he would still reside outside Cambodia.
“We have to remember that politicians can be prepared to do anything, even risking their lives, to win over their rivals. So they can dare to defame and incite others. They don’t care about facing court cases or even murder,” Touch said.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said it was doubtful being found guilty in this case would stop Rainsy from speaking out in future.
“The law punishing defamation is already a deterrent from such an act, including repeating it and securing justice for its victims. But only independent and impartial judges adhering to the principles of natural justice can effectively enforce this law and find justice for victims as an effective deterrent."
“But, as has been well known, Cambodian courts are not that independent or impartial, and Sam Rainsy, who is also a French citizen, is effectively living outside their jurisdiction.
“Together with the lack of effectiveness in court judgments against him in the past, there is good reason to doubt whether the court judgement in this particular case would fare any better to deter Sam Rainsy from making further allegedly defamatory statements,” Mong Hay said.