The ministries of justice and interior on Thursday called for legal action against former opposition leader Sam Rainsy for calling a letter from the King, which urged people to vote in July 29’s national elections, “a forgery, or a piece made under duress thus legally worthless”.
The leader of the newly created Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) was also condemned by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who dubbed the former’s calls for a vote boycott an act “against the King”, and leaders of other parties taking part in the polls.
King Norodom Sihamoni’s letter, urging citizens to exercise their voting rights, was hailed by the prime minister as a “slap” to Rainsy and officials from the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Rainsy posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday his suspicions that the King had been coerced into releasing the message.
“The King’s letter calling for people to vote on July 29 is a forgery or a piece made under duress from the dictator Hun Sen, who goes and makes threats to others, including the King.”
Rainsy’s comments were accompanied by a video posted on YouTube regarding a threat allegedly made by the prime minister against the monarchy in 2005.
He continued: “Please remember that in 2005 the dictator Hun Sen made a threat to the King once. He said he would dissolve the throne if the king did not sign and stamp on the treaty that recognised the border agreement signed by both Heng Samrin and Hun Sen in the 1980s which transfers some territories, including Koh Tral [Pho Quuc Island], to Vietnam.”
As of press time, Rainsy had still not responded to The Post’s requests for comment.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said that according to the law, Rainsy’s comments violate the newly passed lèse majesté law, an act which prohibits insulting the monarchy.
He said prosecutors would file a legal complaint, without initial complaints from other institutions, because it is a criminal case that “involves national security”.
The Kingdom’s lèse majesté law states that anyone who “insults the King can be liable to a sentence of between one and five years in prison and a fine of 2 million to 10 million riel [$500 to $2,500]”.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said Rainsy’s statement was a lie as officers at the Royal Palace confirmed that the King’s message was not forged but genuine.
Sopheak added: “The Royal Palace already denies [any forgery or duress] and claims that the King’s message is real, so it means that Sam Rainsy’s statements are false. He is subject to the law. His excuse is that he is not a Cambodian citizen. But one day, when the bird has forgotten the trap, he will be caught in it.”
Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan on Thursday wrote on his Telegram, that “it is a stupid statement from Sam Rainsy who boasts that he knows better than others. He should not insult the King. It indicates that he violates the King’s duty, and he is against the monarch.”
Eysan added, “right now, people across the country have all political and civil rights. They are preparing to vote according to the King’s wishes”.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay told The Post that “our King should have made such an appeal in person, on the radio or on television instead of issuing a written appeal since he is enthusiastic about the election and keen for them to cast their votes”.
Mong Hay expressed scepticism about the timing of the statement, which was dated May 18 but released this week.
“Sam Rainsy sent the King a petition dated May 23, asking him not to cooperate with the ruling party in its campaign to get people to vote. These circumstances may have given him grounds for suspicion.”
Two people have so far been charged under the lèse majesté law.
A primary school principal in Kampong Thom was charged late last month after he shared a post on Facebook that allegedly insulted King Norodom Sihamoni. The case was followed two weeks later with the arrest of a 70-year-old barber in Siem Reap province who was accused on similar grounds.