Lawmaker faces imprisonment for non-payment of defamation fine

Cambodian opposition legislator Mu Sochua faces imprisonment if she refuses to pay the fine levied against her, media reports said.

The “Phnom Penh Post” quoted government prosecutor Ky Tech, who had filed defamation charges against Mu Sochua in April 2009 in behalf of Prime Minister Hun Sen, as saying that if the Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker continues to defy the verdict, she could be arrested and imprisoned.

“If the court has decided that she is guilty, but she does not comply, it is impossible – she must comply. If she does not follow the court’s decision she could be imprisoned,” Ky Tech said.

Mu Sochua repeatedly said that she would not pay the fine, saying that to do so would be an admission of guilt. “I have not committed a crime. My conscience is clear,” she said.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court upheld on 3 June 2010 the guilty verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Mu Sochua, at the same time ordering her to pay 16.5 million Riels (around US$4,000) in fines and compensations.

Supreme Court Judge You Ottara said that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court would be responsible for taking action to enforce the ruling against Mu Sochua.

Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project said Mu Sochua would likely be given around 60 days in which to pay the fine following a formal request from the court, after which she risked being held in contempt of court.

The opposition lawmaker charged Hun Sen with defamation in April 2009. The prime minister’s allies in Parliament stripped Mu Sochua of her immunity and Hun Sen subsequently filed defamation charges against her. Mu Sochua was found guilty of defamation in August, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal two months later. Meanwhile, Mu Sochua’s lawsuit had been dismissed by the municipal court in October 2009.