A Phnom Penh court has ordered the temporary seizure of two properties belonging to opposition leader Son Chhay in relation to $750,000 in damages he is expected to pay to the ruling party for a defamation conviction.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court from November 11 shows that the plaintiffs in the case — the ruling Cambodian People’s Party — were not confident Chhay would pay the fine. Chhay was convicted of defaming the National Election Committee and CPP in comments he made about election irregularities.
Judge Uong Vuthea sided with a request made by the plaintiffs and issued an order temporary seizing two of Chhay’s properties, a house in Phnom Penh’s Toul Kork district and another in Siem Reap province.
Chhay said he had not received the order yet but had only seen the document floating around on social media. He was surprised the court took such a step because the case was still under appeal, which is scheduled to be heard at the Appeal Court on December 14.
“I said that if the Cambodian People’s Party wants honor, they don’t need to demand $1 million,” he said, referring to the original claim made by the CPP. “That is impossible for me. Demanding 1,000 riel would have given the same honor.”
Chhay was making a comparison to a defamation case brought by the ruling party against exiled former CNRP president Sam Rainsy in a French court, but only asked for one euro in compensation in that case.
He said he had hoped authorities would not take action against his assets until the appeals process was concluded.
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said that if the plaintiff had made a case for temporarily seizing the defendant’s property in lieu of compensation, the judge could consider that request and issue an injunction.