Cambodian Court Finds Blogger Guilty of Defamation

by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Last week, a British expat living in the Kingdom of Cambodia was convicted of defamation in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for statements published on his personal blog relating to the director of a private investment firm. The case has implications for anyone doing business in the region and serves as an important reminder that, despite recent reforms, defamation remains a crime in certain pockets of Southeast Asia.


Rupert Winchester is a journalist from the United Kingdom living in Cambodia, who maintains a personal blog called “The Mighty Penh.” In a June 4, 2013, blog entry titled “I Get Knocked Down,” 1 Winchester posted a photo of an orange colonial-era house, which was built at the turn of the 20th century a couple blocks from the Mekong River in Phnom Penh. Winchester claimed that Etienne Chenevier, a French property developer who serves as director of City Star Private Equity Asia (“City Star”), planned to raze the structure to make room for a seven-story condominium complex. According to the complaint, Chenevier informed Winchester by telephone that City Star had no intention to knock down the building: “Why would we knock down our own building . . . . If you print that I will sue you.” After the conversation, Winchester posted on his blog, “Well I say you will [knock it down]. Knock yourself out, suing-wise, you cheap aggressive huckster.” Winchester also published an article containing similar statements about City Star in The Phnom Penh Post, where he was then working as an editor. The Phnom Penh Post subsequently issued a retraction. On June 7, 2013, Winchester removed the offending portions of his blog entry.

On July 27, 2013, Chenevier filed a complaint requesting criminal prosecution of Winchester. On July 24, 2014, Judge Ros Piseth found Winchester guilty of defamation, ordered him to pay $25,000 in damages to Chenevier and imposed an additional $2,000 fine. According to The Cambodia Daily, Judge Piseth stated, “[If you] say something bad about others it [could lead to] a defamation case.” Winchester intends to appeal the ruling.    


As early as February 2006, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called for the decriminalization of defamation.2 That year, the National Assembly removed from the statute the possibility of imprisonment, but declined to fully decriminalize defamation.3 As Chenevier’s case makes clear, prosecutors in Cambodia continue to try defamation cases in criminal courts using the resources of the government.

Article 305 of the Cambodian Penal Code currently reads, “Defamation shall mean any allegation or charge made in bad faith which tends to injure the honor or reputation of a person or an institution.” In other words, an individual can be convicted of the crime even if his or her statements do not result in actual damages, a necessary element of the civil cause of action in the United States.

The crime in its current form is broad enough to include statements published online regardless of the location of the author. Article 305 reaches statements made “by any means of audio-visual communications intended for the public.” As a result, a U.K. citizen could be haled into a Cambodian criminal court by a French citizen who merely resides in Cambodia based on a showing that the blog entry was “published in Cambodia and read around the world.” The implications of this decision could be significant for any individual or company doing business in Southeast Asia as Internet access and social media usage continue to surge in the region.

1 Portions of the entry are still available at

2 Ellen Nakashima, Cambodia Moves Toward Openness, Wash. Post, Mar. 10, 2006,

3 See Briefing Note, Cambodian Center for Human Rights, The Criminalization of Defamation and Freedom of Expression in Cambodia (May 2014), available at


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP

Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.