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Cambodia court orders Aust teacher to pay

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Former Adelaide school teacher Son Chhay has been found guilty of defamation in a Cambodian court and ordered to pay the ruling party $A1.2 million for criticising local commune elections held in June.

The 66-year-old appeared in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last week after complaints were lodged by the National Election Commission (NEC) and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The municipal court said the charge was related to a comment by Son Chhay, vice-president of the opposition Candlelight Party, that: “These election results do not reflect the will of the people, who were intimidated. Their votes were bought and stolen.”

CPP lawyer Ky Tech described those remarks as “fraudulent, misrepresented information, fake and ill-intended purpose to seriously damage the reputation of the CPP who won the election [sic],” the semi-official Fresh News portal reported.

The CPP demanded $A1.5 million in compensation.

Son Chhay, who was not in court on Friday, was also found guilty of defaming the NEC and ordered to pay about $A3350 in damages and another $A6616 in fines.

The Candlelight Party was forged out of the remnants of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) which was outlawed by the courts in 2017, enabling the CPP to win all 125 seats contested at national elections a year later.

Since then hundreds of CNRP supporters have been convicted and jailed, some in absentia, for incitement and treason.

Speaking outside the court last week the dual Australian-Cambodian citizen asked judges to declare their political allegiances, claiming the charges were about politics and the next national election due in Cambodia in mid-2023.

“Political issues should be dealt with politically not in the court. The question is, are the judges a member of the ruling party? How can they judge someone from another party. This is the important issue,” Son Chhay told AAP.

Human rights groups also claimed the charges were politically motivated.

Phil Robertson, Deputy Director for the Asian division of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Son Chhay’s case was ludicrous and the charges against him should be thrown out.

In another case involving an Australian-Cambodian, the retired member for the Victorian Parliament Hong Lim was charged in absentia with incitement but was acquitted in October last year.

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Former Adelaide school teacher Son Chhay has been found guilty of defamation in a Cambodian court and ordered to pay the ruling party $A1.2 million for criticising local commune elections held in June.

The 66-year-old appeared in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last week after complaints were lodged by the National Election Commission (NEC) and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) led by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The municipal court said the charge was related to a comment by Son Chhay, vice-president of the opposition Candlelight Party, that: “These election results do not reflect the will of the people, who were intimidated. Their votes were bought and stolen.”

CPP lawyer Ky Tech described those remarks as “fraudulent, misrepresented information, fake and ill-intended purpose to seriously damage the reputation of the CPP who won the election [sic],” the semi-official Fresh News portal reported.

The CPP demanded $A1.5 million in compensation.

Son Chhay, who was not in court on Friday, was also found guilty of defaming the NEC and ordered to pay about $A3350 in damages and another $A6616 in fines.

The Candlelight Party was forged out of the remnants of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) which was outlawed by the courts in 2017, enabling the CPP to win all 125 seats contested at national elections a year later.

Since then hundreds of CNRP supporters have been convicted and jailed, some in absentia, for incitement and treason.

Speaking outside the court last week the dual Australian-Cambodian citizen asked judges to declare their political allegiances, claiming the charges were about politics and the next national election due in Cambodia in mid-2023.

“Political issues should be dealt with politically not in the court. The question is, are the judges a member of the ruling party? How can they judge someone from another party. This is the important issue,” Son Chhay told AAP.

Human rights groups also claimed the charges were politically motivated.

Phil Robertson, Deputy Director for the Asian division of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, said Son Chhay’s case was ludicrous and the charges against him should be thrown out.

In another case involving an Australian-Cambodian, the retired member for the Victorian Parliament Hong Lim was charged in absentia with incitement but was acquitted in October last year.

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