Saturday, February 25th, 2012
The brother of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested a court official to drop a sexual harassment suit against two of his friends, drawing condemnation from rights groups.
Hun Sen’s older brother Hun San made the request in a letter to Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court Chief Prosecutor Phann Vanrath, a copy of which was seen by RFA. The prosecutor’s office confirmed with RFA that it had received the letter on Friday.
In the letter dated Dec. 3, 2011, Hun San, who is the director of an agency under the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation, calls the harassment claim against Cambodian Mine Action Center official Oum Socheat and businessman Thang Pisith “groundless.”
“Please forgive me that I can’t meet you in person,” reads the letter by Hun San, who is the director of the Kampuchea Shipping Agency & Brokers Department.
“I would like to request that you, brother prosecutor, please help intervene and aid Oum Socheat and Thong Pisith to put an end to the Nov. 13, 2011 accusation made by a waitress in a Stung Treng restaurant.”
Hun San questioned the accusation against the two middle-aged men, who allegedly verbally harassed and groped 25-year-old Hy Theavy while she served them, saying they would not have done so with others present at the table.
“As mentioned above, I ask that the prosecutor please intervene and drop the case. I hope that the prosecutor will help in ending the suit.”
Prosecutor Phann Vanrath confirmed to RFA that he had received the letter, but said it would not influence his decision on the case. He added that the court is investigating the matter and expects to issue a ruling in March.
“Both sides have their lawyers. The lawyers have asked for copies of the [victims] lawsuit,” Phann Vanrath said.
“I don’t know who leaked the letter, but we [the court] didn’t leak it. To do so would be against the court confidentiality code of ethics,” he said.
“I don’t bend to outside influence. I would quit my work [if that was a problem],” he said.
Cambodian rights group Adhoc’s Chief Investigator Ny Chakriya said he had also seen the letter, but refused to identify the source of the leak for security reasons.
He added that the letter may have already influenced the court’s decision.
“Based on the prosecutor’s statement in which he claims the letter did not influence him, Adhoc will continue to monitor the case,” he said.
“We will see via the court’s decision whether the judge can act without interference.”
Meanwhile, accuser Hy Theavy stood by her complaint of harassment, adding that if the suspects hadn’t committed any crimes then they would not have had to ask for help from the prime minister’s brother.
“Why did Hun San dare to say that Oum Socheat and Thong Pisith didn’t abuse me and decide to write a letter to the court’s prosecutor to drop my case?” she asked.
Hy Theavy said that she now fears for her personal safety.
“Is Cambodian law truly for both the rich and the poor?”
Reported by Sophalmony Soun for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.