Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday said he has ordered an investigation into treason accusations against former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy who allegedly agreed to cede four provinces to Vietnam’s Montagnards if he won the 2013 elections.
During an inauguration of Koh Pen bridge in Kampong Cham province yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said he has ordered the ministries of justice and interior to look into the alleged treason.
“Now we’ve found out that he signed an agreement to cede four provinces,” he said. “It’s a very big case and treason has clearly emerged; no one has the right to cede Cambodian land.”
Last week, the Ministry of Interior said it was reviewing its options after viewing a video in which Mr Rainsy allegedly spoke of ceding four provinces to Vietnam’s Montagnards if he won the 2013 elections.
The video was leaked on Facebook, within a post that included documents dated April 14, 2013 and bearing the signatures of Mr Rainsy and that of Kok Ksor, head of a Montagnard association in the United States.
Montagnard is a French term referring to a Vietnamese hill tribe, also known as Degar, most of whom are from Christian ethnic minority groups residing in the Vietnam Central Highlands.
“Those people who themselves are Degar people, they are part of the Cambodian nation,” Mr. Rainsy said in the video. “They live in Mondukiri, Ratanakkiri, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces.”
“When we establish a new government, we will ensure that Montagnards, the Degar people, will live as free citizens in Cambodia,” he said. “Their lands, their forests, their mountains will be returned to them.”
Mr Hun Sen said he would ask Vietnamese leaders at the Asean-Australia Summit in Sydney on Saturday if they knew about Mr Rainsy’s plans.
“I will ask Vietnamese leaders about that issue,” he said. “We have pictures related to what you have done…they did not yet have power, but dared to promise to cede Cambodian land to somebody.”
Mr Hun Sen said that Mr Rainsy always accused him of being Vietnam’s puppet and of ceding land to Vietnam, but he himself dared to do so.
The now-dissolved CNRP made major gains in the 2013 election, winning 55 seats in the National Assembly as the ruling CPP secured 68 and ensured its continued governance.
Afterwards, Kem Sokha took over as party leader when Mr Rainsy stepped down due to court cases against him, but Mr Sokha has since been jailed on treason charges for allegedly conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow the government.
Mr Rainsy has lived in exile since 2015 after being hit with slew of court cases, including by Mr Hun Sen who accused him of defamation.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court upheld a defamation verdict that sentenced Mr Rainsy to 20 months in prison and ordered him to pay 100 riel to the premier over claims that state authorities were responsible for assassinating political analyst Kem Ley.
The case stemmed from repeated claims by Mr Rainsy that Mr Ley’s point-blank shooting in a Caltex gas station in July 2016 was “an act of state-sponsored terrorism.”
In March last year, Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Mr Rainsy for defaming Mr Hun Sen when he said that “shooting Dr Kem Ley dead was orchestrated by the state”.
Mr Rainsy’s lawyer Sam Sokong argued in a statement yesterday that Mr Rainsy could not have defamed Mr Hun Sen because he did not address him by name.
Ky Tech, Mr Hun Sen’s lawyer, argued that “the state” meant government leaders, including Mr Hun Sen.
“Both Phnom Penh Municipal Court and the Appeal Court sentenced Sam Rainsy and the security camera showed that only one killer shot and killed Kem Ley,” Mr Tech said. “Sam Rainsy wanted the head of the government to lose reputation or face.”
Presiding Judge Kim Sathavy said the Supreme Court rejected Mr Rainsy’s appeal and upheld the Appeal Court’s verdict.