Prum Chea, who was convicted earlier this year in connection with an protest against alleged Vietnamese border encroachments, is escorted from the Cambodian Appeal Court.
The Kingdom’s Appeal Court has heard the case of opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two villagers from Svay Rieng province who were convicted earlier this year in connection with a protest against alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory.
Judge Kun Leang Meng said the verdict had been delayed until next Wednesday due to limited time and the “complicated” nature of the case.
In January, Svay Rieng provincial court sentenced Sam Rainsy to two years in prison for racial incitement and destruction of public property after a protest last year in which he allegedly led villagers in uprooting Vietnamese border posts.
Meas Srey, 40, and Prum Chea, 41, received one year in jail each for their alleged roles in the incident. During a hearing of roughly four hours at the Appeal Court, both villagers denied playing a direct role in uprooting the posts.
“Sam Rainsy just held the post, but he did not uproot it, and neither did I,” Meas Srey said. “A lot of people pulled on it.”
Under questioning from government lawyer Chan Sok Yeang, Prum Chea said he was unaware of the official status of the border posts.
“I only know that the posts were on my land,” he said.
Choung Choungy, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, said the opposition leader had only been doing his duty as a parliamentarian in bringing attention to the border issue.
“My client had only two aims: to respect the people’s rights and defend territorial integrity,” Choung Choungy said. Chan Sok Yeang said, however, that Sam Rainsy’s protest last year was an attempt at unlawful incitement that came as the government was preoccupied with its dealings with Thailand.
“The government has been worrying about the western border, but he has made problems at the eastern border with Vietnam,” Chan Sok Yeang said.
Sam Rainsy fled abroad last year to avoid prosecution in the case. In a series of video press conferences and postings on the Sam Rainsy Party’s website, however, he produced maps that he said proved his claims of Vietnamese encroachment.
In connection with these attempts at vindication, Sam Rainsy was convicted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month for disinformation and falsification of public documents, receiving a 10-year prison term in addition to the two years he received from the Svay Rieng court in January.
Khim Ponnapan, a member of the government’s border committee who appeared as a witness, said the placement of the border post Sam Rainsy allegedly uprooted had not been finalised.
In a statement from New York, Sam Rainsy pointed to this statement as an admission that the government had made a mistake in demarcating the border, noting that Khim
Ponnapan had declined to disclose the final location of the border post in question.
“My only crime was to expose the government’s mistakes before they were willing to recognise them themselves,” Sam Rainsy said.