Several youth groups and a spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) have issued separate statements condemning former opposition party leader Sam Rainsy and calling for his prosecution, claiming that he repeatedly insulted King Norodom Sihamoni.
The eight groups signing a joint petition against Rainsy are the Khmer Youth Empire; 100 Nights Youth Group; Environmental and Social Activists; Cambodian Informal Economy Youth Group; Young Researchers; Civil Society for Development; Youth Group for Peace and Development; and Khmer Kampuchea Krom Charity Association (KKKCA).
Their petition came in response to Rainsy’s recent remarks on social media questioning the devotion of the King to his subjects.
"We are all young civil society groups that were in the past critical of the government for not contributing enough to the development of society. Now we cannot stand by and watch convict Sam Rainsy make serious insults to the royal power of King Norodom Sihamoni again and again," read the petition dated February 21.
The groups called on Cambodians from all walks of life, especially students, intellectuals and government officials, to protect the values of the Cambodian people. They asked that relevant authorities take legal action against Rainsy by punishing him according to the Kingdom's "lese majeste" laws, which make insults towards the King illegal.
Heng Samnang, a spokesman for the groups, and their coordinator Muong Sony both declined to comment further on February 22.
A CPP spokesperson also issued a statement condemning Rainsy as a traitor and calling for the “strongest” legal action against him for “repeatedly” insulting the King.
Rainsy has been living in self-exile in France since 2015. In August, 2022, Cambodia's courts convicted him in absentia for "attempting to cede four provinces to a foreign power" and sentenced him to life in prison in October, in addition to a slew of prior convictions with lengthy prison terms.