PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodia's prime minister filed a defamation lawsuit Monday against the country's opposition leader and an opposition lawmaker for suggesting the authorities were involved in the killing of a popular political analyst who spoke critically of the government.
Legal papers filed with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court show that a lawyer for Prime Minister Hun Sen is suing Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy for remarks he posted on Facebook linking the authorities to the July 10 killing of Kem Ley. His party colleague Thak Lany was sued for making similar allegations in a speech.
The fatal shooting of Kem Ley, 45, raised suspicion of a political conspiracy, though police said the accused man confessed to shooting him because of an unpaid debt. Tens of thousands of Cambodians marched July 24 in the funeral procession for bury at his southern Takeo province.
In what is widely believed to be an effort to cripple the opposition ahead of local elections in 2017, the government last year began cracking down on its political rivals and critics through the courts, which are considered tools of the ruling party.
Sam Rainsy has been abroad since mid-November, when an order for his arrest was issued on an old conviction for defaming former foreign minister Hor Namhong. He had assumed his sentence had been lifted by a 2013 pardon.
Just last week he was fined by the same Phnom Penh court after being found guilty of defaming Heng Samrin, a legislator and senior member of the Cambodian People's Party.
Monday's complaint filed on Hun Sen's behalf by lawyer Ky Tech alleged that "This slander and stupid publication in public by Sam Rainsy accusing the government of orchestrating the killing of Kem Ley not only seriously affected the honor and reputation of the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, but it is also intentionally incites the public to anger which could result in unrest in society and affect to the court process."
It said Hun Sen has asked Sam Rainsy to pay 100 riel ($0.025) as compensation to him and urged the court punish the opposition leader in according to the law. The complaint's allegation of inciting the public suggests that Sam Rainsy could face a charge of inciting social unrest in addition to defamation if the court accepts the lawsuit.