Khmer Rouge victims sue Cambodian opposition member
The remains of Khmer Rouge victims on display in Choeung Ek, on April 18, 1998. Four survivors of a notorious Khmer Rouge torture prison have taken a key Cambodian opposition member to court for allegedly saying the jail was a Vietnamese fabrication, the victims' lawyer said.
Kem Sokha, deputy head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), will face a civil law claim of public defamation after he purportedly said Tuol Sleng prison was staged by the Vietnamese, who ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979.
Thousands of men, women and children were detained at Tuol Sleng -- also known as S-21 -- and tortured into denouncing themselves and others as foreign spies.
"The lawsuit is about public defamation over his comment about Tuol Sleng," lawyer Kouy Thunna told AFP.
If found guilty, Kem Sokha could be fined up to $2,500, the lawyer added.
The CNRP swiftly denounced the move as the latest in a series of politically motivated smears aimed at the opposition party ahead of July's general election.
"All things have been orchestrated by the ruling party," CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said.
But Chum Mey, a prominent survivor of the prison regime, said the quartet decided to sue because Kem Sokha refused to apologise for the purported remarks.
"We are demanding $1,000 from him in compensation in order to cover a religious ceremony for the dead so their souls will be calm," he told AFP.
About 10,000 Cambodians protested in the capital on Sunday against Kem Sokha.
The CNRP has said the remarks -- posted on a government website last month -- were doctored to cause "political trouble" before the July 28 elections, when Prime Minister Hun Sen will seek to extend his near three decade-grip on power.
Kem Sokha has accused Hun Sen's ruling party of inciting the protests against him -- a claim denied by Cambodia's strongman leader -- and complained that his political meetings this week were disrupted by hundreds of protesters.
Cambodia's parliament last week passed a law banning the denial of atrocities committed by the hardline communist regime -- a move the opposition says targets them before elections.
Hun Sen has led the country since 1985 and his government is regularly accused of suppressing political freedoms and mistreating activists.