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Prosecutors Charge Son Chhay with Public Defamation over NEC Complaint

PHNOM PENH: Prosecutors from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court have charged senior member of the Candlelight Party, Son Chhay, with public defamation in a second lawsuit filed by the National Election Committee (NEC), after the one filed by the Cambodian People's Party (CPP).

In the subpoena dated 9 August, Prosecutor Plang Sophal found that Son Chhay's interview with the Cambodia Daily's Idea Talk program highlighted elements of crime, enough to prove 66-year-old Chhay is guilty and can be charged.

Prosecutors first charged Son Chhay with public defamation in Phnom Penh on 7 June 2022, under Article 305 of the Penal Code, and ordered to send him and the relevant exhibits to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for legal trial.

On 17 June 2022 the NEC filed a lawsuit against Son Chhay in court alleging public defamation as a result of his interview with Cambodia Daily.

In this complaint, NEC representative and member, Dim Sovannarom, and NEC Deputy Secretary General, Som Sorida, submitted to the court a USB drive containing the contents of the interview between the Cambodia Daily's Tang Sarada (interviewer) and Son Chhay on 7 June 2022.

The NEC's reaction comes specifically to some of Son Chhay's comments in his interview, including his comment that “the [election] result does not reflect the will of the people, there are threats, there is vote buying, there is stealing, and what we got is only the rest," and "if a thief steals a cow, if he steals three cows, then why don’t we let him steal all five."

Another comment from the interview that the NEC have pointed out is: "It is not because the opposition party demand or speak, they have the technique, they have the evidence, they have the village chief who took record, the soldiers that were stationed near the polling station, the soldiers that walk around all night, we have known this, so I think it is not right, not fair, the NEC is not independent, and the results do not reflect the will of the people”

The NEC allege that this statement has seriously affected the committee, which must perform its duties independently and impartially to ensure that elections in Cambodia are free, fair and just, in accordance with the principles of liberal multi-party democracy.

The NEC considers these allegations to be in violation of the new Article 150 (two) of the Cambodian Constitution, Article 42 of the Law on the Organization and Functioning of the National Election Committee, and Article 305 (Public Defamation) of the Criminal Code of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The NEC requested the court to convict Son Chhay for public defamation and for Son Chhay to have to write a public letter of apology to the NEC.

In addition to being sued by the NEC, Son Chhay is also being sued by the CPP for public defamation.

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