Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09PHNOMPENH297
2009-05-07 11:34:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Phnom Penh
Cable title:  

DEFAMATION SUITS CONTINUE; GOVERNMENT ADHERES TO

Tags:  PGOV PHUM PREL KJUS CB 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXRO8537
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0297/01 1271134
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 071134Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0685
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000297 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, P, D, DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/06/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KJUS CB
SUBJECT: DEFAMATION SUITS CONTINUE; GOVERNMENT ADHERES TO
LAW, AVOIDING MU SOCHUA "MARTYRDOM"

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 295

B. PHNOM PENH 279

C. PHNOM PENH 273

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES A.I. THEODORE ALLEGRA FOR REASONS 1.4
(B,D)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000297

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, P, D, DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/06/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KJUS CB
SUBJECT: DEFAMATION SUITS CONTINUE; GOVERNMENT ADHERES TO
LAW, AVOIDING MU SOCHUA "MARTYRDOM"

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 295

B. PHNOM PENH 279

C. PHNOM PENH 273

Classified By: CHARGE D'AFFAIRES A.I. THEODORE ALLEGRA FOR REASONS 1.4
(B,D)


1. (C) SUMMARY: The government and Hun Sen's lawyer are
taking a low-key approach to the case against opposition
parliamentarian Mu Sochua. Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told
Charge May 6 that the case against Mu would be carried out
within Cambodia's legal framework and according to the rule
of law. He expressed certainty that she would not go to
jail, and did not know of circumstances under which Mu
Sochua's parliamentary immunity might be lifted. Referring
to Mu Sochua's defamation case against Prime Minister Hun
Sen, he noted her apparent desire to become a "martyr" and
repeated that the government would not go outside the law.
In the meantime, action at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court
continued May 7 with lawyers for both sides appearing as
plaintiffs to answer prosecutor questions in support of their
claims. END SUMMARY.

Sok An: Strictly Within the Framework of the Law
-------------- ---


2. (C) Charge requested an urgent meeting May 6 with Deputy
Prime Minister and Minister of Council of Ministers Sok An to
discuss the Mu Sochua case and to urge the government to show
moderation. The Charge and Pol/Ec Chief were summoned after
8 p.m. to an empty and darkened Council of Ministers Building
by Sok An's staff who said he had been closeted with the
World Bank for the previous three hours. Noting that the
Embassy took a special interest in the case, and that Mu
Sochua's situation was garnering international attention, the
Charge said that the U.S. government was taking the matter
seriously and that this interest would not flag. Throughout
the discussion, the Charge urged the government to consider
reconciliation where both parties would agree to drop the
suit and countersuit for defamation. The Charge also
suggested that PM Hun Sen might take the initiative in
offering to drop the suit and challenge Mu Sochua to
reciprocate.


3. (C) Sok An said that first, the Cambodian government did

not want to play the "communications game", referring to
publicity seeking to make political statements. Instead the
government's idea was to act in a way that was in the
framework of the rule of law, he said. That is the approach
the government lawyers have to take, Sok An continued. They
cannot work outside the framework of a legal basis. Whatever
happens will have to emerge from the lawyers' specialized
legal knowledge, he noted, and in the context of Cambodia's
existing laws. He volunteered that Mu Sochua would not go to
jail. When asked about the prospect of lifting Mu Sochua's
parliamentary immunity (Ref A),the DPM was less certain,
saying that he would have to refer to the Council of Jurists,
a group of 60 lawyers at the Council of Ministers. He
repeated that he was certain that Mu Sochua would not go to
jail.

Human Rights Watch Criticized; Mu Sochua No Martyr
-------------- --------------


4. (C) Commenting that he had read the just-issued public
statement by Human Rights Watch, Sok An noted with distaste
that it was "very, very strong," and recalled that the HRW
statement made reference to the government behaving like
"dictators". (NOTE: HRW Asia Director Brad Adams stated that
Hun Sen's goal is an "elective dictatorship, not a genuinely
pluralistic democracy." END NOTE.) He also noted in this
context that Mu Sochua was trying to become a "martyr", but
indicated that it was unlikely the path defined by the law
would allow this to happen. Charge responded that neither
the law nor politics should be vehicles to provoke
threatening responses in this case.

Inter-Parliamentary Union Following the Case
--------------


5. (SBU) Poloff attempted to gather more information on the
ostensible letter from the AIPU sent to the Prime Minister
(Ref A). An assistant in the Human Rights Program office at
the Inter-Parliamentary Union headquarters in Geneva
confirmed that the IPU is "dealing with the case," but is
doing so under the confidential procedures of the Committee
on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians. When asked if the
IPU had made any attempt to contact the Cambodian government,
the assistant said "probably," and then declined to answer
any further questions.

PHNOM PENH 00000297 002 OF 002



Municipal Court Takes First Procedural Steps
--------------


6. (SBU) The Embassy sent an observer to monitor action at
the Municipal Court throughout the day on May 7. The Prime
Minister's lawyer, Ky Tech, was originally expected to appear
in support of the PM's complaint at 9:30 a.m., but did not
arrive until afternoon, around 3:40 p.m. According to the
court clerk, Hong Bunhour, Ky was taken to an office for
questioning. Upon emerging 30 minutes later, Ky was
approached by several reporters. He would not answer any
detailed questions about the case, but only reiterated the
basics of the complaints he had filed on behalf of Hun Sen.
He said the complaints were for "defamation," then directed
reporters to consult with the prosecutor for more information.


7. (SBU) Mu Sochua's lawyer, Kong Sam Un, also arrived at
the court in the afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., and was taken
to a separate office. He emerged after more than one hour of
questioning, and answered reporters' questions. He stated
that Mu Sochua is the victim in this situation, and asked the
court to find justice for his client. When asked by a
reporter if he feared the Prime Minister's influence and if
he "wanted protection," he said yes.


8. (SBU) Neither lawyer indicated when they might be
summoned to appear as defendants, which is the next step
under Cambodia's French-based judicial system. Following
that, the prosecutors would determine whether to press
forward with criminal complaints or to turn a case over to an
investigating judge to gather more information, or to dismiss
the suits entirely.


9. (SBU) COMMENT: The usually voluble Ky Tech has declined
to provide specifics about Hun Sen's case several times now.
On May 6, he told reporters he was "too busy" to comment on
the case, and following today's questioning he also remained
close-lipped. Although it's too early to tell if that is how
the RGC intends to deal with the case going forward, today's
low-key approach was a welcome contrast to the shrillness and
provocation that has characterized much of the public debate
thus far.
ALLEGRA