Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Senator Sok Hour given seven years for forgery and incitement

Senator Sok Hour given seven years for forgery and incitement

CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay talks to reporters yesterday after the conclusion of opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour’s hearing.
CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay talks to reporters yesterday after the conclusion of opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour’s hearing. Hong Menea

Senator Sok Hour given seven years for forgery and incitement

After a detention and trial period of 450 days, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour to seven years in prison for displaying a “fake” border treaty between Cambodia and Vietnam on Facebook.

The Sam Rainsy Party senator, who was seized by armed police two days after Prime Minister Hun Sen called for his arrest for “treason” in August 2015, was convicted of forging public documents, using forged public documents and incitement to commit a crime.

Giving little in the way of explanation, judge Ros Piseth yesterday read out the sentence to an empty dock, with Sok Hour and his lawyers choosing not to attend the hearing.

“After listening to the conclusion of the prosecutor, the conclusion of the lawyers, and the final words of the accused, and after considering thoroughly based on the facts and the law, the court decides to sentence Hong Sok Hour to seven years,” Piseth said, before detailing the charges.

Reached after the hearing, defence lawyer Choung Choungy said his team skipped the hearing because he considered the ruling a foregone conclusion, adding he had yet to discuss with his client whether to lodge an appeal.

The accusations against the senator, who was arrested despite his senatorial immunity, stem from documents he presented as a 1979 treaty between Cambodia and Vietnam in a video clip posted on the Facebook page of Cambodia National Rescue Party president Sam Rainsy, who has been charged as an accomplice in the case, as have at least two opposition social media workers.

The controversy surrounded Article 4 of the purported treaty discussed by Sok Hour, in which then-Cambodian head of state Heng Samrin appeared to agree to dissolve the two countries’ borders. During the trial, Sok Hour, a dual French-Cambodian citizen, said he had found the documents online rather than forged them and didn’t know they were fakes.

Via email yesterday, Rainsy, who fled abroad last year to avoid arrest in a separate case, said the version of the treaty used by Sok Hour was more likely a mistranslation than a doctored fake, with the word “dissolve” replacing the word “redefine”.

In any case, he said there was ample evidence that the documents were not created by the senator and had circulated online for years.

“Seven months before the June 2017 commune election this verdict is another act of political repression in order for Hun Sen’s CPP to pervert the election process by creating and maintain an atmosphere of fear and intimidation,” Rainsy said.

Senior CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay, among the few opposition figures to attend yesterday’s hearing, said the heavy sentence, though not surprising, was a sign relations between the CNRP and ruling Cambodian People’s Party were far from improving.

“The court is also only to serve politics . . . and the verdict today makes it difficult to see where the situation will go next,” said Chhay, before adding the party would continue to push for a deal.

With more than 20 opposition and human rights figures in prison, human rights groups slammed yesterday’s verdict as the continuation of efforts by the CPP to crush its opponents.

Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, called the trend “extremely alarming” ahead of elections in 2017 and 2018, while labelling Sok Hour’s case “unconstitutional” and “politically motivated”.

Asia director for Human Rights Watch Phil Robertson agreed. “This is another example of a politically trumped up charge used to throw an opposition party member behind bars for an incredibly long time,” Robertson said.

“He should be released immediately; he’s done nothing wrong. When are these travesties of justice going to stop?”

MOST VIEWED

  • Forest Harmony’s $18M luxury villas break ground in Kampot

    Local and French joint-venture Forest Harmony has broken ground on its $18 million “second-home” Luxury Holiday Villas project in Kampot province. Century 21 Mekong CEO and local shareholder of the project Chrek Soknim told The Post that the project will comprise 90 villa units covering 18ha on a 97

  • US, Cambodia pledge to strengthen military ties

    The US on Tuesday pledged to help train military officers, particularly Cambodia’s blue helmet troops deployed for UN’s peacekeeping operations. The pledge was made during a meeting between US ambassador Patrick Murphy and Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) commander-in-chief General Vong Pisen. Further

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • Sokha lodges an appeal over treason case reaching court

    Kem Sokha, the president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has appealed against the decision to send his treason case to trial. Sokha’s legal team said their client was not satisfied with the decision of a Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating

  • Gov’t approves $9B worth of building projects in 2019

    The government has approved more than $9 billion this year for capital investment in the construction sector, a nearly 80 per cent increase on last year, with most of the growth coming from projects in Sihanoukville, according to Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Chea

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the