PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s leader is suing a longtime political opponent in a French court for defamation, the lawyer who filed the complaint said Wednesday.
Opposition figure Sam Rainsy, a French citizen, accused prime minister Hun Sen of plotting the 2008 death of the police commissioner in a helicopter crash, according to the lawsuit which will be heard in France.
The lawsuit is a rare legal challenge outside of Cambodia, where rights groups say the courts are controlled by the ruling party.
“Mr Sam Rainsy, on his Facebook account, had written unacceptable things about the prime minister,” lawyer Luc Brossollet told AFP.
“We want the French authorities to condemn Sam Rainsy for defamation.”
Rainsy, who lives in self-exile in France to avoid numerous charges he says are politically motivated, is the founder of a now-dissolved Cambodian opposition party.
Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia with an iron first for 34 years and has long warred with Rainsy, who co-founded the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
The party performed well in 2013 elections but was dissolved by the Supreme Court ahead of the 2018 vote, which Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party swept.
Authorities jailed critics and opposition figures in the run-up to the election, including CNRP co-founder Kem Sokha, who remains under house arrest.
Rainsy said on Wednesday he welcomed the lawsuit.
“This will give me an opportunity to confront him before an independent court,” he told AFP by phone.
Rainsy also reiterated plans to return to Cambodia in November to “be with the people”.