Human Rights Foundation (HRF) strongly condemns the lawsuit for “defamation” and “incitement to social unrest” filed by the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, against Sam Rainsy, the leader-in-exile of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). On Monday, Prime Minister Sen filed a lawsuit against Rainsy for remarks he posted on Facebook suggesting that government officials were involved in the recent murder of Kem Ley, a prominent political commentator and activist who spoke critically of Cambodia’s government. Regarding the suit, the prime minister’s attorney stated to the media, “this slander and stupid publication ... not only seriously affected the honor and reputation of the government ... but it is also intentionally inciting the public[’s] anger which could result in unrest.” This is the third official defamation lawsuit filed against Rainsy in the past year.
“Criminal indictments for ‘defamation,’ ‘incitement to public disorder,’ or ‘insulting public institutions,’ to name a few, have proven to be valuable tools in every autocrat’s repressive arsenal. Despite their differences, these offenses are all similarly worded in overly broad and vague terms, and can be interpreted so as to criminalize any legitimate opposition activity, such as Mr. Rainsy’s remarks,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Prime Minister Sen and his henchmen must stop crippling Cambodia’s beleaguered democratic opposition. All charges against Mr. Rainsy should be dropped immediately.”