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Court upholds Serey Ratha verdict

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Former Khmer Power Party President Sourn Serey Ratha, seen in handcuffs, gets out of a police vehicle following his arrest in August 2017. Photo supplied

Court upholds Serey Ratha verdict

The Supreme Court on Friday upheld the five-year prison term handed down to the founder and former president of the Khmer Power Party, Sourn Serey Ratha, over posting a message to Facebook in August 2017 criticising the deployment of Cambodian troops to the Laos border.

Ratha suggested that soldiers in the field would suffer while the military’s leaders stayed back to enjoy “money” and “girls”.

Presiding Judge Khem Pun said that the Supreme Court “has decided to uphold the verdict of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the Appeal Court”.

Ratha’s lawyer Chan Rapiseth declined to comment on the verdict.

Ratha, 44, was arrested in Phnom Penh over the post claiming a war with Laos would not be any different from earlier wars against Siam, now Thailand.

“Cambodian soldiers will die in battle . . . and the commanders will be promoted and have money to spend lavishly on women,” he wrote.

He was found guilty on August 25 last year and sentenced to five years in prison on three charges under the Criminal Code. On the first charge he was found guilty under Article 471 of inciting the armed forces to disobey orders. He was also found guilty of demotivating the army – an offence under Article 472 – and incitement to commit a crime, punishable under articles 494 and 495.

In a letter posted to his Facebook page on May 15, Ratha apologised to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, expressing regret for having insulted Hun Sen and the army, and asking the prime minister to pardon him.

“I, Sourn Serey Ratha, regret writing the political message and posting it on Facebook without due consideration and that it seriously affected the reputation of Samdech Techo [Hun Sen] . . . I publicly and sincerely apologise to Samdech Techo [Hun Sen], Five-Star General of the Army,” he said in the letter.

In January 2004, Ratha was tried in absentia on charges of “incitement to topple the government” and sentenced to seven years in jail. He was also fined 25 million riel (around $6,250). In July 2015, he was pardoned by King Sihamoni and returned to Cambodia that October.

Ratha formed the Khmer Power Party in 2010, with it officially registered with the Ministry of Interior in 2015.

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