A lawyer for the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces filed a complaint accusing former opposition leader Sam Rainsy of “incitement” yesterday, despite Prime Minister Hun Sen vowing on Wednesday to sue his long-time political opponent for “treason”.
Vong Pheakdey, lawyer for the RCAF, told reporters that he “filed a complaint against Sam Rainsy for inciting the armed force to cause insecurity to the state”.
Speaking outside of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Pheakdey said the suit stems from comments made in Paris on Saturday and later posted in a video to Rainsy’s Facebook page on Tuesday. In the video and accompanying text, Rainsy urged the armed forces not to “shoot and kill innocent people”, even if ordered to do so.
Hun Sen called the comments a “declaration of war”.
But yesterday, Pheakdey said the complaint was “related to defamation and incitement to make the armed forces not obey leaders, who are the legitimate government”.
The complaint does accuse Rainsy of threatening national security, but the word treason does not actually appear in the document.
“I would inform the prosecutor that in December 2017, Sam Rainsy incited the armed forces not to obey the orders of the legitimate head of the royal government,” the complaint reads, adding that Rainsy’s actions have “impacted state security”.
“We hope that the court will take action urgently,” Pheakdey added.
Rainsy has been in self-imposed exile since 2015 to avoid a host of politically tinged convictions. Kem Sokha, Rainsy’s successor as president of the party they co-founded, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, is currently awaiting trial on treason charges for saying he received advice from the US.
The CNRP – the only legitimate competitor to the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party – was dissolved last month by a near-universally condemned Supreme Court decision for allegedly fomenting a foreign-backed “revolution”.
Despite the wording of the new complaint, government spokesman Phay Siphan said it was still the government’s position that Rainsy committed treason.
“We do not take the law into our own hands,” he said, explaining that it was up to the court to decide whether or not to charge him.
Former Deputy CNRP President Mu Sochua said treason charges would be “a total charade”.
She said the lack of a specific complaint related to treason “shows even more they don’t have a case”.
Political analyst Meas Nee said Rainsy would be charged with treason if the government willed it, but with Rainsy abroad in France, he wondered what the point of the suit was.Calling Rainsy’s remarks “extreme”, Nee said the personal animus between Rainsy and Hun Sen is “nothing that could help this country out of the current political tension”.
Rainsy, however, defended his comments as simply upholding “democracy and humanity”.
“Begging soldiers not to shoot at and kill innocent people – including citizens from all walks of life who exercise their constitutional right to protest peacefully – is neither an act of treason nor an act of sedition.”
Updated Friday, 8 December, 6:50am