Opposition leader Sam Rainsy was officially charged today with inciting and demoralising the military after urging soldiers not to fire on protesters.
Sam Sokong, one of Rainsy’s lawyers, said that Phnom Penh court Deputy Prosecutor Sieng Sok informed him Rainsy was charged under articles 471 and 472 of the Criminal Code.
Article 471 outlaws “inciting military personnel to be disobedient”, while Article 472 forbids “demoralisation of military personnel”.
Both charges carry prison sentences of two to five years and fines of 4 million to 10 million riel (about $1,000-$2,500).
In a Facebook post in early December, Rainsy urged soldiers not to “obey orders from any dictators if they order you to shoot and kill innocent people”.
Hun Sen called the comments a “declaration of war” and threatened to sue him for treason. Rainsy has since announced his intention to call for peaceful protests, and reiterated his plea to the armed forces.
“The deputy prosecutor issued a warrant to send this case to investigation. He was charged,” Sokong said.
“There is no serious evidence for charging him,” he continued, adding that he and his co-lawyers “cannot accept” the accusation.
Rainsy currently lives in France, where has been in self-imposed exile since 2015 in order to avoid a slew of politically tinged convictions.
Deputy Prosecutor Sok refused to comment on the case, saying there was “no need to clarify”.
Vong Pheakdey, the lawyer who submitted the complaint on behalf of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said he was not aware of the charge yet.
"The charge they have levied on me ... proves that I have hit at their weak point," Rainsy said today via email.
Rainsy said the government has a "well-founded fear to be toppled by disgruntled internal forces as in the case of many dictatorships recently all over the world".
Additional reporting by Andrew Nachemson