SAM Rainsy says he is facing criminal charges in Svay Rieng provincial court in connection with an October incident in which he uprooted markers on the border with Vietnam, as opposition party members prepare to travel to the contested area today to investigate alleged encroachment by Vietnamese farmers.
“We have decided to indict and detain Sam Rainsy and his accomplices,” Svay Rieng provincial court prosecutor Keo Sothear wrote in a November 24 investigating warrant, according to a document provided by Sam Rainsy.
The president of the eponymous political party is being charged with incitement causing racial discrimination and destruction of property under Articles 52 and 61 of the UNTAC Criminal Code, the document states. Svay Rieng officials could not be reached for comment.
On October 25, Sam Rainsy joined Svay Rieng residents in uprooting the markers to protest against what locals say is Vietnamese encroachment onto Cambodian land.
WE HAVE NOTHING TO FEAR BECAUSE WE HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG.
Cambodian officials have said the markers were placed only on a temporary basis and did not represent an official demarcation.
Sam Rainsy was stripped of his parliamentary immunity during a closed session of the National Assembly on November 16, paving the way for his prosecution in this case. But Choung Chou Ngy, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, said he thought his client had little to fear from the court.
“Sam Rainsy did nothing wrong, because the location where the border demarcation posts were placed was in the [Cambodian] citizens’ ricefield,” he said.
In a statement issued October 30, Vietnam’s foreign ministry condemned Sam Rainsy’s actions and asked Cambodia to protect the nations’ ongoing border-demarcation process.
The statement called Sam Rainsy’s act “perverse, undermining common assets, violating laws of Cambodia and Vietnam, treaties, agreements and deals between the two countries”.
Var Kimhong, senior minister in charge of border affairs, said the visit to the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng planned by the SRP would be illegal in the absence of permission from Vietnamese authorities.
The parliamentarians could disrupt the investigation of Sam Rainsy, he said.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann dismissed the charges as an attempt to intimidate the opposition.
“We have nothing to fear because we have done nothing wrong,” he said, adding that today’s trip to the border is necessary because “as parliamentarians, we have to check the place where the people have complained, because we have all sworn to defend Cambodian territory”.