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Court rejects request for border panel

THE Court of Appeal on Tuesday upheld a ruling rejecting a request by the lawyer for self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to form an independent, bipartisan committee to investigate claims of Vietnamese border encroachment, lawyers said.

Choung Choungy, the lawyer for the Sam Rainsy Party president, submitted the request in April at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where his client is facing charges of falsifying public documents and spreading disinformation in connection with a dispute concerning encroachment allegations in Svay Rieng province.

In January, Sam Rainsy was sentenced in absentia to two years in prison for his involvement in an October stunt in which he assisted residents of Svay Rieng’s Chantrea district in uprooting border posts. The charges at the municipal court stem from press conferences held after the verdict, when, speaking by video link, he presented what he described as additional evidence of encroachment. If convicted, he faces up to 18 more years in prison.

Choung Choungy asked for the creation of an independent committee including representatives of the opposition as well as of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

The request was rejected on May 19, with the Municipal Court noting that the government already has a committee dealing with border issues.
Appeal Court Judge Nhoung Thul declined to comment on Tuesday’s hearing, which was closed to the public. But both Choung Choungy and government lawyer Ky Tech said the Municipal Court’s decision had been upheld.

“The Appeal Court has decided not to allow the formation of this committee, like the first court did,” Ky Tech said.

He added that investigating judges at the Municipal Court were only empowered to assess complaints brought by prosecutors, not to form committees.

Choung Choungy blasted the decision, and asserted that the government’s border committee was biased against his client.

“I would like to say that the government’s border committee places more of a burden on my client,” he said. “I requested to form a mixed committee that would be neutral and that would have participation from my client’s party.”

Municipal Court prosecutor Sok Roeun said Tuesday that the case against Sam Rainsy was still being investigated.

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