Tomorrow I’ll be going to Cambodia to spend a couple of days in the company of Mu Sochua. Up until now I’ve had the opportunity to visit many South East Asian countries, including Cambodia but I consider this visit my first “on assignment”. So I got the purpose, now I need the images and stories. We’ll see how that’ll go.
Mu’s most recent troubles began in April, when Prime Minister Hun Sen, without mentioning her by name, made public statements that Mu said were as preposterous as they were humiliating. He said that a woman, who, by his description could only be Mu, had rushed to embrace an army officer, then accused him of unbuttoning her blouse.
Shocked and offended, Mu sued the prime minister for defamation. What in fact had happened, Mu says, was that an officer, during an outdoor political event, had attempted to block Mu from taking a photograph. A scuffle ensued, during which her blouse came unbuttoned.
Taking on the prime minister in Cambodia is risky. The government, according to the United Nations human rights office in Cambodia, has, with alarming frequency, used the courts to silence political enemies. Mu should know. Hun Sen responded to Mu’s lawsuit by countersuing, an act that Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, called “yet another blatant attempt to silence the political opposition.” It came as little surprise to Mu when a municipal court upheld the prime minister’s case but dismissed hers, and fined the parliamentarian the equivalent of U.S. $4,100.
Mu is adamant that she will not pay the fine, even though her refusal to do so means she would lose her parliamentary seat and likely go to jail, perhaps for as long as six months. “I don’t want to be a hero,” she says, “but I am not going to pay the fine because that would mean admitting guilt, and what would that mean for the poor who are fighting for justice every day in Cambodia?”
[SF State Magazine Fall/Winter 2009 ~ Alumni & Friends: Taking a Stand.” San Francisco State University. ]