PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has opened investigations into criminal complaints filed against opposition leader Sam Rainsy by government lawyers last month over an ongoing dispute over the demarcation of the Cambodia-Vietnam border, court officials said Thursday.
Sok Roeun, the court’s deputy prosecutor, said that following the rejection on Tuesday of the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) president’s bid to postpone his initial court hearing, the court began looking into the accusations.
“Since the cases are under investigation, the court needs both sides’ lawyers to submit more evidence for consideration, and then we can make a judgement,” he said.
He could not confirm that the two charges – falsifying public documents and spreading disinformation – would be upheld.
The complaints were filed after Sam Rainsy released maps that he said offered “unprecedented evidence” of Vietnamese incursions into Svay Rieng’s Chantrea district.
The SRP leader, who is currently overseas, has already been sentenced to two years in prison for uprooting temporary border markers in the area, which villagers said were planted in their rice fields by Vietnamese authorities. If convicted on the two new charges, Sam Rainsy could face an additional 18 years in prison.
Choung Chou Ngy, Sam Rainsy’s defence lawyer, said on Thursday that he would continue to keep a close watch over the court’s investigations of the complaints.
“I have no idea whether Sam Rainsy will face charges or not, but the most important thing is that so far there is still not enough evidence to charge my client,” he said.
Government lawyer Ky Tech, who filed the complaints against Sam Rainsy on February 26, said he has prepared more documents to back the claims against the Kingdom’s main opposition leader.
“I have already prepared more evidence and will submit it to the court on Thursday afternoon,” he said.