The government has rejected a resolution approved last week by the European Parliament criticising the recent prosecution of opposition leader Sam Rainsy and commenting on a “worrying authoritarian trend” in Cambodian politics.
The resolution, passed Thursday, called on the Cambodian authorities to resolve their dispute with the Sam Rainsy Party president “through political dialogue and to enable [him] to resume his parliamentary activities as rapidly as possible”.
Sam Rainsy has been sentenced to a total of 12 years in jail on a series of charges relating to his campaign to expose alleged Vietnamese incursions into Cambodia.
If Sam Rainsy’s two convictions are upheld, the EP’s resolution stated, he would be barred from standing in the 2013 national elections, a prospect that left the European MPs “particularly alarmed”.
Tith Sothea, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers’ Press and Quick Reaction Unit, dismissed the resolution, saying Sam Rainsy had made a “mistake” by uprooting border markers in Svay Rieng province last year, the action that led to his initial conviction in January.
“The case of Mr Sam Rainsy is a personal mistake and one made with a political motivation,” Tith Sothea said.
“It is under the jurisdiction of the courts.”
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith added that Europe should not “give a lesson to Cambodia” and should focus on its own problems.
Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann welcomed the EP resolution, calling on the government to consider how Sam Rainsy’s cases might create problems down the road.
“Justice always beats injustice,” he said. “The government which uses the courts as a tool to silence the opposition party’s popularity should consider this issue.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AFP