Cambodia: Kong Sam Onn: Concerns about Independence of Lawyers

On April 27th, 2009 a Cambodian lawyer, Mr. Kong Sam Onn, filed a defamation complaint at the Municipal Court against Prime Minister Hun Sen on behalf of his client, an opposition politician, Ms. Mu Sochua. That same day, the government on behalf of the Prime Minister filed a criminal defamation case against both Mu Sochua and Kong Sam Onn.

April 30th, the Prime Minister’s lawyer lodged a complaint with the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) against Kong Sam Onn for violation of professional ethics.

On June 10th the defamation case against the Prime Minister was dismissed, but the charges continue to proceed against Mu Sochua and Kong Sam Onn.

June 18th, 2009 complaints were made against Mr Kong Sam Onn, was made with the (BAKC). These complaints are connected with his representation of Ms. Mu Sochua in her defamation claim against Prime Minister Hun Sen.

LRWC recognizes the right of all individuals to legal protection of their reputations but is profoundly concerned that criminal defamation, disinformation and incitement laws, the Law on the Bar and the Bar Code of Ethics are being utilized to suppress political dissent and freedom of expression, and to punish professional legal practice and curtail progress towards an independent legal profession. LRWC respectfully urges the government to instruct all government officials and their representatives to respect the independence of the Bar Council and all prosecutors and judges in this and all other cases in Cambodia.

UPDATE July 7th, Prime Minister Hun Sen withdrew the bar complaint against Kong Sam Onn and said he would withdraw the defamation case from the Municipal court as well, after having received a letter of apology with an offer to join the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. Kong Sam Onn had also resigned his post. The bar association is still proceeding with its investigation.


Action alert written June 12, 2009.

Letter written June 30, 2009 by Gail Davidson