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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Leadership of CNRP digging in

Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy, deputy Kem Sohka
Opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy (right), and his deputy Kem Sohka speak at a press conference at their party headquarters in Phnom Penh yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Leadership of CNRP digging in

Opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha have been summonsed to appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for questioning in the wake of a weekend that saw their occupation of Freedom Park end with the abrupt, violent eviction of scores of demonstrators.

In a summons dated Friday and issued on Saturday, the court called on the two Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders to submit to questioning on January 14 for having allegedly incited striking garment workers to commit a crime and disrupt social order.

Rainsy said he would face the questioning head-on.

“We don’t care. The court summoned Kem Sokha and I to answer questions, so we will go – both of us. We will go to respond to any questions from the prosecutor,” he told reporters yesterday at the CNRP’s headquarters. “It will be an opportunity for us to expose the truth.”

The questioning won’t be the first brush with the court for the two.

Sokha served several weeks in prison on defamation charges before receiving a Royal pardon in early 2006, while Rainsy fled the country in 2009 after being handed a series of charges related to uprooting markers along the Vietnamese border – charges many observers say were politically motivated – and remained in self-imposed exile until July last year.

In a telephone interview, Rainsy said yesterday that the situation now is “definitely” reminiscent of 2009, and characterised the summons as “another attempt by the [ruling Cambodian People’s Party] to eliminate me from the political scene”.

But unlike 2009, he continued, even if the case went to trial and he was convicted of incitement, he would stay and face the sentence.

“The situation is much different from the one prevailing five years ago in that the opposition is much stronger now,” Rainsy said, maintaining that the CPP needed the opposition’s implicit approval of last year’s election.

“They want to negotiate, they want us to sit in the National Assembly, they want us to endorse the result of the last election,” he said. “The government already has problems of legitimacy. If they put the two opposition leaders in jail, they would look worse.…They would lose any credibility.”

Political analyst Chea Vannath agreed that fleeing the charges again would be the wrong move politically.

“I think that he will face a lack of confidence from his supporters if he goes into exile again,” she said. “Maybe he prefers to face the court rather than run away from the country, because in the past [there was] a lot of criticism about him leaving the country, rather than facing the hardship in Cambodia … so I don’t think he’ll do that again.”

Even last night, though, rumours still swirled that the two leaders were planning to leave the country – rumours that Rainsy dismissed, saying he “intend[s] to stay and to fight back peacefully”.

CNRP lawmaker-elect Mu Sochua, meanwhile, called the summons “the same trick” as the one used against her when she was stripped of her parliamentary immunity and sued by Prime Minister Hun Sen for defamation in 2009.

“As far as the court is concerned, it’s crystal clear,” she said. “He is using the court to silence us. This is a political case, and this is a challenge to the international community” to confront the regime, she added.

However, legal expert Sok Sam Oeun yesterday questioned whether the charges would hold.

“If they base [the charges] on the demonstration organised by the two of them, then I don’t think that this is grounds for incitement,” he said, maintaining that the charge was too vague. “If it’s [incitement] to commit a crime, what crime? Killing? Robbery? Murder?”

Though dated the day before the eviction from Freedom Park, the summons wasn’t made public until well after the square had been brutally cleared. In the morning, military police in full riot gear descended on the park and – with the help of plainclothes thugs wielding makeshift truncheons and wearing red armbands – scattered protesters and beat stragglers.

Yeng Virak, the executive director of the Community Legal Education Center, and who was arrested concurrently alongside Sokha in the defamation case, said the sweeping of Freedom Park was yet another example of “jungle law”.

“Can we say the country has laws? What laws do they enforce?” he asked.

“Every day they enforce the law of the jungle. Whoever is strong, that one wins.”

The action came after a letter from City Hall to Rainsy informing him that the opposition would no longer be allowed to hold demonstrations due to recent violence, despite the fact that opposition protests had been studiously non-violent.

City Hall, however, conflated the CNRP’s demonstrations with a violent garment worker protest on Friday in which at least four protesters were shot dead by military police.

Though the protest was not officially affiliated with the opposition, the CNRP had sought to bring protesting garment workers into its fold in recent days, a gambit that political analyst Kem Ley said had been “high-risk”.

Nonetheless, he said, the association with workers had been the right move.

“It is not a mistake, because everybody can help,” Ley said.

“When the garment workers are suffering from the low wage, everybody must help to advocate.”

Rainsy too defended the decision to link his movement with that of the garment workers, calling it a “matter of principle”.



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IsNoGood's picture

Sam r. has never and will never do anything for anybody other then him self. he opportunist and racist.Who after coming back because of some soft NGO's have cursed more trouble in Cambodia than ever before, Pls. go back to your money and homeland "France"Cambodia loosing valuable investment, at the cost of this ego centric person, loosing jobs in the process ones he done he go home as he has done all the other times

CHANDY's picture

Yeah! He can live a very good life in France if he choose to... A far better life than some corruptive CPP in Cambodia. But he choose not too, he is aging and he should retire by now BUT he did not.. What he has been done? Well, with my eyes and logic... During his tenure as minister of finance, there plenty of money flow in government budget, crack down corruption under his control etc... I do not remember all but he unroot the border which consider the land of Cambodia which earn him a jail term... He risk life to for a walk to freedom... Let me tell you that if you read the Phnom Penh business more often you ll come across a research saying that Cambodian range among the worse country to start up and doing business... Among the worse corrupted country and can you tell who is the head of this government for the last 30 years? I mean your reason that Mr. Sam Rainsy is the cause of losing business, to me, is non sense. Have you ever wonder how much the start up cost to do business in Cambodia? And do you know how long it take to get a business license if u don't pay corruption? I have bought 5 big trucks and I refuse to pay extra money to get plate number, do you how long I have to wait? I mean wake up and ask yourself what other country is doing to get their country doing well, and do not compare yourself to the country like Sudan or Mali... Just take a look south of Cambodia, a small island call Singapore...

vantheman's picture

Your statement is a bit rich and ignorant. Perhaps you're just the one who're greately enjoying living on blood and tear of ordinary people. It is a real sad world to have this kind of people like you who're totally blind by the fact that CPP led by a dictator Hun Sen has used its absolute power to quell dpwn any opposition. This is 2014 but still there are this cruel and savage act against unarmed civilian. How can you sleep at night over this violation of basic human rights?
This shocking attitude from the ruling government is taking th country back to dark age in late 70's. Please consider carefully before doing any unthinkable act towards your own people because afterall they are Khmer unless you are Pol Pot who wouldn't think that the case.
Mr Rainsy is just a voice of million Khmer who are crying for a genuine democracy and we are always behind him.
Shame on you and you your mindless CPP.

KhmerPal's picture

Agreed. Rainsy 'had' good ideas and brought about a welcome change-of-heart / open-eyes to the Khmer this time around. But his ego has gotten the best of him as he now simply further incites violence thinking he can get his sheep to believe it was all the CPP's doing. Those 'open-eyes' he brought is showing to be nothing more than a blindfold for the ignorant. Khmer really need to step back and take a long hard look at their present situation before more deaths occur.

CHANDY's picture

You know, be a man! If someone else can do it, you better step down and let them lead. What ego? Who got ego? Existing leader or Sam Rainsy. I do not get your point and logic to take step back before more death occur. Who pull the trigger, by the way? Mr. Sam Rainsy? And ask yourself again if you to stop the protester, do u really have to use the live bullets? If you can afford the real bullets, u can also afford the plastic one. I am very disappointed to see such a view by intelligent like you.

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