Phnom Penh Municipal Court today issued an arrest warrant for Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy over a defamation case that is now seven years old.
The arrest warrant came less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened the opposition leader, who is currently on route to South Korea from Japan, with legal action for comments he made in Tokyo this week questioning the ruling Cambodian People’s Party’s commitment to holding elections.
But, signed by deputy Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor Seu Vanny and dated today, the document orders the opposition leader’s arrest over his 2011 conviction in absentia for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in 2008.
For alleging Namhong had run Khmer Rouge prison Boeung Trabek, he was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.
That verdict faded into the background after Rainsy was granted a Royal Pardon in 2013 allowing him to come back and contest the election after four years of self-imposed exile.
It was not immediately clear if the Royal Pardon had specifically failed to address the conviction related to the Namhong comments.
At the time, Rainsy faced more than a decade in prison, with charges also linked to his pulling out border markers on the Vietnam border in 2009.
According to the warrant, a request was submitted today to implement the defamation case’s final verdict, which was upheld by the Appeal court in 2013.
Responding, Sam Rainsy Party president Teav Vannol said: “All these incidents happened over seven years ago, why is he bringing this up now again against Sam Rainsy? It’s clearly politically motivated; there’s no power in the court, this is politically motivated.
“The government just wants to intimidate Sam Rainsy not to speak up as the president of the CNRP, that’s the reason. The government shouldn’t stop the opposition, this is a democracy, different opinions between parties are normal, they should be able to express our opinion. Using the court system to intimidate like this is like a dictatorship.”