PHNOM PENH, Oct. 13 -- The editor of Cambodia's leading anti- government newspaper vowed Friday to appeal to the king if his conviction on charges of defaming the two prime ministers are not dropped by the Supreme Court. Editor Thun Bun Ly, 39, of the Odom Kati Khmer newspaper who lodged an unsuccessful appeal in the appeals court Friday, faces the closure of his paper and a one-year jail term if he fails to pay a fine of over $2, 000.
'Cambodia is supposed to be a democratic country where freedom of expression is practiced but I don't think Cambodia has democracy at all, ' Bun Ly told reporters outside the court. 'I will call on the king to help me if I lose my next appeal to the Supreme Court,' said Bun Ly who has two months to make a further appeal. The editor was convicted of disinformation and defamation for the October 1994 publication of a letter to the editor titled 'The two prime ministers should stop barking.' The letter accused First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh and Second Prime Minister Hun Sen of continuing to wage an unnecessary civil war. The appeal judge, Saly Thearaal, said Friday the editor had published false news that threatened political stability and by using the word 'barking' had insulted the country's leaders. Local and international human rights groups have criticized the government's record on freedom of the press. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch Asia published a report in September that said, 'Over the last year the Royal Cambodian Government has waged a campaign to silence its critics, targeting newspapers and political figures for prosecution and harassment.'