>Journalist Dam Sith freed: Hun Sen vouches for him

By Duong Sokha et Stéphanie Gée

Unofficial translation from French by Tola Ek
Click here to read the original scoop by Ka-set in French
Click here to read the original scoop by Ka-set in Khmer

At his exit from jail at 11:00 AM on Sunday 15 June, Dam Sith (pictured), the editor-in-chief of the pro-Sam Rainsy Party Moneaksekar Khmer (Khmer Conscience) newspaper, thanked “the embassies, the associations of journalists, SRP MPs, and Sam Rainsy in particular, and Samdach Hun Sen for their intervention in his release.” Nevertheless, Dam Sith insisted that he “maintains his position,” and his position at the head of his newspaper.

The news started to spread since Saturday evening in Phnom Penh. On Saturday, Prime minister Hun Sen wrote to the Phnom Penh court requesting the bail release for Dam Sith who was arrested since 08 June, and he was immediately incarcerated thereafter. Hun Sen brought some weight into the matter: he personally vouched for Dam Sith, “as the prime minister.” The court had to abide by this request a few hours later. Dam Sith’s lawyer, Chung Chungy, said that he is “happy” to see Hun Sen’s intervention which he judged to be “very effective.” Last Monday, Khieu Kanharith, the minister of Information, and the SRP MPs, had separately called on the court to release Dam Sith. But, it was futile. On Friday, Judge Chhay Kong rejected the prior official request made by Dam Sith’s lawyer.

Sam Rainsy also said that he is “delighted” by the good news, while adding that he wished “this case never even take place.” “[This release] only serves to put things back to normal. A lot of time and energy has been wasted … This is regrettable, this is what happens when a single person decides about everything: the arrest and the release … The court is bypassed, and the Parliament is also bypassed…” Sam Rainsy reminded also that Dam Sith received “fabulous offers from the CPP, but he refused, preferring to remain faithful to his ideals.” “This arrest was done to punish him for not selling himself out.”

Dam Sith still remains the target of the defamation and disinformation lawsuit brought up against him by Hor Namhong, the minister of Foreign Affairs, who accused him of reporting in his newspaper the speech given by opposition leader Sam Rainsy. In this speech, Sam Rainsy indicated that the government still includes former Khmer Rouge officials, in particular the foreign minister who was allegedly the former chief of the Boeng Trabek jail.

Pen Samithy, editor-in-chief of the Rasmei Kampuchea newspaper, wrote in the Sunday’s edition of his newspaper that the Club of Cambodian Journalists (CCJ), which he presides, wishes to see Hor Namhong withdrawing his lawsuit against Dam Sith. Dam Sith indicated also that he asked his lawyer to discuss with Hor Namhong’s lawyer in order to convince him to withdraw the lawsuit. “If he (Hor Namhong) refuses, I will send my complaint to the Khmer Rouge Tribunal so that it examines Hor Namhong’s responsibilities [under the Pol Pot regime] at the Boeng Trabek detention camp,” Dam Sith said.

The arrest of a journalist brought protests from other journalists, as well as from human right activists, both inside and outside the country. As mentioned several times in the past, Dam Sith is also a SRP candidate for the upcoming 27 July general election for the city of Phnom Penh.

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