Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Incitement charge laid against CNRP's Um Sam An

Incitement charge laid against CNRP's Um Sam An

CNRP lawmaker Um Sam An is led in handcuffs earlier this week. Photo supplied
CNRP lawmaker Um Sam An is led in handcuffs earlier this week. Photo supplied

Incitement charge laid against CNRP's Um Sam An

Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An was officially charged with incitement on Tuesday, with civil society “unreservedly” condemning the border activist’s arrest even as Prime Minister Hun Sen leapt to defend it.

According to a court document signed by investigating judge Top Chhun Heng, Sam An was charged with “incitement to commit a felony (causing chaos in society) and incitement to cause discrimination”, and placed under pre-trial detention.

The charges stem from a border campaign waged last year by the Cambodia National Rescue Party firebrand that saw him accuse the government losing territory to Vietnam and using improper maps in demarcating their shared border.

Sam An’s lawyer, Sam Sok Kong, decried the charges as “completely political” and an infringement on his client’s right to free expression.

“We cannot accept the charges because he just expressed his views on behalf his people, and as a lawmaker he has the right to exercise his rights in compliance with Cambodian law and international law,” he said.

Meanwhile, a group of 13 civil society organisations released a statement on Tuesday saying Sam An’s arrest not only “plainly undermine[s] the constitutional guarantee of immunity for members of the National Assembly, but it also signifies the shrinking democratic space and intolerance of political pluralism in Cambodia”.

Though the Constitution guarantees lawmakers’ immunity from arrest and prosecution, officials have argued that Sam An’s arrest is legal under a specific clause that allows for individuals to be prosecuted if caught “in flagrante delicto”, or red-handed.

Hun Sen yesterday took to Facebook to repeat those arguments, and to call for the arrests of anyone else claiming the government had used “fake” maps in its demarcation process.

“I would to announce strongly that for anyone who talks about fake maps, there must be arrests immediately, no matter who they are,” he said.

“The issue of fake or genuine maps cannot be raised,” he added. “You are committing a red-handed crime.”

However, in their statement, the CSOs argue that the government’s interpretation of the “in flagrante delicto” clause “reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of the accepted meaning of this legal principle”.

“It is widely understood to be a very narrow exception in which the culpability of the accused individual is entirely beyond doubt, thus justifying the disapplication of ordinary procedures. It is plainly untenable to claim that there is overwhelming evidence that Mr. Sam An is guilty of criminal conduct,” the statement continues. “Further, it is nonsensical to claim that the in flagrant delicto exception can apply when the arrest relates to events that took place such a long time ago.”

Opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour was arrested and jailed last year under similar circumstances, and on the same legal basis, for allegedly posting portions of a “fake” border treaty with Vietnam.

Alluding to that case, and the numerous “baseless” court cases recently levelled at self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy, the organisations go on to say that the “relentless persecution of the political opposition … and the shrinking of democratic space is extremely alarming”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor Wat named as the top landmark for the second year

    Travel website TripAdvisor has named Cambodia’s ancient wonder Angkor Wat as the top landmark in the world for the second year running in their Travelers’ Choice Award 2018, an achievement Cambodian tourism operators expect will attract more tourists to the Kingdom. The website uses traveller

  • New US bill ‘is a violation of Cambodian independence’

    After a US congressmen introduced bipartisan legislation that will enact sanctions on Cambodian officials responsible for “undermining democracy” in the Kingdom, government officials and the ruling Cambodian People’s Party on Sunday said they regarded the potential action as the “violation of independence and sovereignty

  • Ministry’s plan for net sparks fears

    The government has ordered all domestic and international internet traffic in the Kingdom to pass through a Data Management Centre (DMC) that has been newly created by the state-owned Telecom Cambodia, in a move some have claimed is an attempt to censor government critics. Spokesman

  • Hun Sen detractors ‘will die’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday said those who curse or insult him would eventually die without a plot of land to bury their bodies after being killed by lightning, suffering the same fate as those who recently died in Thmar Baing district in Koh