Phnom Penh Municipal Court has summoned former opposition CNRP leader Sam Rainsy and five former lawmakers to appear at court for questioning next month over the founding of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, branded a “terrorist group” by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We invite suspect Sam Rainsy to appear on May 22, 2018, for questioning on the case of founding the Cambodia National Rescue Movement to incite, to cause serious turmoil to society and to affect national security with the intention of overthrowing the legitimate government of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” prosecutor Sieng Sok said in the summons.
The summons, signed on March 30, also calls on Mr Rainsy’s wife Saumura Tioulong, former CNRP vice president Eng Chhay Eang, and former CNRP lawmakers Nuth Rumduol, Ho Vann and Tok Vanchan, to appear at the court for questioning in May.
The summons came after the Interior Ministry filed a lawsuit in February against Mr Rainsy and 28 former CNRP officials accused of forming an illegal movement overseas in an effort to overthrow the government.
In January, Mr Rainsy established the CNRM in response to the Supreme Court’s dissolution of the opposition party, with the aim of helping the CNRP be revived and join the national election in July.
Mr Rainsy urged people to protest against the government, called on the armed forces to not shoot protesters and appealed to the international community to cut aid.
CNRM members include Mr Rainsy; his wife Ms Saumura; and two former deputy presidents of the CNRP, Mr Chhay Eang and Mu Sochua. No summons was seen issued for Ms Sochua.
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.
Kem Sokha then took over as the president of CNRP, but was jailed on treason charges last year over comments he made in 2013 video footage from Australia-based CBN news, which showed him saying the US government had been helping him to push for regime change in Cambodia since 1993.
The CNRP was also accused of conspiring with the US to topple the government through a colour revolution and was then dissolved in November, when 118 of its senior officials were also banned from politics for five years.
Ou Chanrath, a former CNRP lawmaker who has refused to support the CNRM, said the movement should have never been founded in the first place.
“I do not support this movement,” Mr Chanrath said. “If we want to maintain the spirit of the opposition party, we should not have created such a movement even though the CNRP was dissolved,” he added.
“I think the CNRM was created by outsiders and it has no influence in Cambodia. I think it is not a solution for the country at all.”
The CNRM last month retained the US firm BerlinRosen, a Washington-based public relations firm, to manage a publicity campaign aimed at intensifying international pressure on Mr Hun Sen; the services will cost $250,000 over the next six months.
In February, Mr Hun Sen warned Mr Rainsy not to bring his CNRM to Asia, saying that the government would take action against the movement if it appeared in Cambodia.
“I would like to send a message – do not come to Asia,” Mr Hun Sen said. “If you try to be a terrorist, I will do my best to arrest you.”
“Now they declared themselves as terrorists, not only an illegal organisation,” Mr Hun Sen added, noting that Cambodia would cooperate with other countries to arrest them.
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling CPP, hailed the court’s actions against Mr Rainsy and his group.
“It is the court’s discretion to act against a rebellious group overseas,” Mr Eysan said, noting that the CNRM would not dare to show up in Cambodia.
“We have strong evidence against Sam Rainsy, who called on armed forces to protest against the government and the Prime Minister.”
Kirth Chantharith, spokesman for the National Police, could not be reached for comment yesterday but in the past has said he would crack down on any CNRM operations within the country.