SVAY Rieng provincial court has summoned opposition leader Sam Rainsy and five villagers to appear in court on January 27 to face charges stemming from the removal of wooden markers near the border with Vietnam.
Choung Choungy, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, said Sunday that he received a court summons signed by court prosecutor Keo Thea on Friday and would appear to defend his client, who is currently overseas.
“I maintain my stance that this story is not a criminal case, and that [Sam Rainsy] is not wrong because he did what he did as a representative of the people,” he said.
“This is not a criminal case, but a political story.”
Sam Rainsy has been charged with racial incitement and purposely destroying border-demarcation poles after a Buddhist ceremony in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district on October 25. Villagers claimed the markers were placed in their fields by Vietnamese authorities, prompting opposition concerns that Cambodian authorities are turning a blind eye to border encroachments.
OBSERVERS WILL WANT TO KNOW WHETHER OR NOT THE TRIAL will GIVE JUSTICE.
A warrant was issued for Sam Rainsy’s arrest after he failed to appear in court on December 28 for questioning in relation to the incident.
Five local villagers – Meas Srey, 39, Prom Chea, 41, Prak Koeun, 38, Prak Chea, 28, and Neang Phally, 39 – were also charged with destroying the border markers and have been summoned to appear in court on the same day.
Two of those named, Meas Srey and Prom Chea, have been detained by local authorities, and the other three remain on the run after failing to appear in court last month.
Nget Nara, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said the trial of Sam Rainsy and the villagers would draw the attention of many national and international human rights observers.
“This story is very important because it is related to the border issue and the lifting of Sam Rainsy’s [parliamentary] immunity. Observers will want to know whether or not the trial will give justice to Sam Rainsy and those people,” he said.
Judge Koam Chhean, who is handling the case, could not be reached on Sunday.