SVAY RIENG PROVINCE & PHNOM PENH—SVAY RIENG provincial court has found opposition leader Sam Rainsy guilty of racial incitement and destroying demarcation posts on the border with Vietnam, lawyers said. In a closed-door session on Wednesday, Judge Koam Chhean sentenced the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) president to two years prison in absentia and fined him 8 million (around US$1,927), said Sam Sokong, the defense attorney of two villagers accused on similar charges.
“I cannot accept the trial today, because it did not take evidence and proof into consideration to find justice,” Sam Sokong said. “The court did not base its decision on the evidence.” He added that his clients – local villagers Meas Srey, 39, and Prom Chea, 41 – were also sentenced to one year in prison each on the charge of destroying public property. Rights activists also reported that the three were ordered to pay 55 million riels ($13,253) in compensation for the removal of the border markers.
The charges stemmed from an October 25 incident in which Sam Rainsy joined villagers in uprooting six temporary border markers in Svay Rieng’s Chantrea district. Locals claimed they were placed in their ricefields by Vietnamese authorities. Sam Rainsy is currently in France.
Long Ry, an SRP lawmaker who attended the trial, also rejected the verdict, saying the proceedings were a farce. “The decision was prepared beforehand and everything was decided in advance. The court ‘acted’ very well,” he said.
But one government official said the criticisms were misplaced, since all Cambodian judges followed due process and adhered to the law. “Everyone has different ideas, but we have one law,” said Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers. “We have to accept the judge’s decision.”