Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy called the government’s allegation of “treason” against him silly and claimed it provides him with an opportunity to highlight the persecution of indigenous people in the Kingdom.
Rainsy, the former president of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), made the statement after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court summonsed him to appear on August 13, in connection with an allegation that he attempted to give land to foreign nationals.
The warrant, signed by Investigating Judge Ros Piseth on July 13 but made public on Monday, says Rainsy is under court monitor for “attempting to give foreigners parts of [Cambodian] national land”.
This is an offence committed in Phnom Penh and other areas on April 14, 2013, and a crime punishable under Articles 27 and 440 of the penal code.
In an email on Monday, Rainsy said: “I thank the Hun Sen government for their silly accusation of “treason” because it gives me the opportunity to raise an issue that has long been taboo in Cambodia – the persecution of indigenous minorities.
“On behalf of the opposition CNRP representing Cambodia’s mounting democratic and progressive forces, I wish to officially recognise the legitimate rights of the many ethnic minorities living in the Northeast of our country."
“Those indigenous peoples have been persecuted for decades, if not centuries. Their human rights have been grossly and continuously violated to the extent that their very existence as indigenous peoples is being jeopardised.”
However, Rainsy acknowledged that in 2013, while visiting North Carolina, in the US, he signed an agreement with Montagnard Foundation president Kok Ksor.
But the substance of that agreement, Rainsy claimed, was just a reproduction of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as adopted by the world body in 2007.
“Only one word in the agreement differed from the UN Declaration. Kok Ksor and I advocated “autonomy” instead of “self-determination,” he said.
Rainsy said the government could grant some degree of autonomy to the ethnic minorities in the provinces where they live, to make their own decisions when it came to the preservation of their culture, environment, identity and dignity.
A lawyer who has represented Rainsy over the past years said the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia (BAKC) will nominate a lawyer for him.
Sam Sokong, another of Rainsy’s lawyers, said the former CNRP leader had not requested a litigator.
“Because he does not believe in the court system, he doesn’t want a defence lawyer,” he said, adding that Rainsy had not requested legal representation.
“If there’s no defence lawyer in the case, the bar association will nominate one to defend him because this is a crime,” he said.
The latest warrant was issued after Y Sokhy, head of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Counterterrorism and Transnational Crimes, filed a complaint on Saturday with the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against Rainsy over his alleged collusion to give land to foreign nationals.
The Ministry of Interior launched an investigation into a video clip and the agreement between Sam Rainsy and Kok Ksor, which had been posted on Facebook.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said the court has the legal basis and strong evidence against Rainsy.
“When he forfeits his right to a lawyer, the court will proceed. And he’s the one who is at a disadvantage because he rejects the rights he’s entitled to,” he said.