The Interior Ministry’s Counter-Terrorism Department on Wednesday evening filed a lawsuit against former opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who allegedly agreed to cede four northeastern provinces to Vietnam’s Montagnards if he won the 2013 election.
The lawsuit was filed after Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday ordered an investigation into treason accusations against Mr Rainsy.
“Now we’ve found out that he signed an agreement to cede four provinces,” the premier said during the inauguration of a bridge in Kampong Cham province. “It’s a very big case and treason has clearly emerged; no one has the right to cede Cambodian land.”
The complaint was submitted to Phnom Penh Municipal Court and accuses Mr Rainsy of treason for colluding to cede territory to foreigners, which affects the Kingdom’s sovereignty.
“The video and act of signing the agreement to cede territory to a foreign state or foreign agency of prisoner Sam Rainsy is really treason,” Y Sok Khy, director of the Counter-Terrorism Department, said in the complaint.
The case stem from a leaked video on Facebook within a post that included documents dated April 12, 2013 and bearing the signatures of Mr Rainsy and that of Kok Ksor, head of a Mongtagnard association in the United States.
Mongtagnard is a French term referring to a Vietnamese hill tribe, also know 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 Mondulkiri, 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.”
The complaint also highlighted evidence pulled from the agreement signed between Mr Rainsy and Mr Ksor.
“Indigenous peoples have the rights to autonomy under the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” it quoted the document as saying, adding that Montagnards would be allowed to freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said yesterday that he did not support ceding land to create a foreign state.
“I think the government should review the agreement that he signed with the leader of the Montagnard association to see how it would have impacted the nation,” Mr Chanrath said. “I did not see the agreement to cede land to the Montagnards but if it affects the territorial sovereignty of our nation I do not support it at all.”
When asked why the video footage of Mr Rainsy just emerged, Mr Chanrath said it could be a political manoeuvre to garner more support for the ruling party before July’s national election.
“I think it might be politically motivated because it is close to the upcoming election. Every party always tries to get more support in order to silence the other parties,” he said.
Ly Sophanna, spokesman of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, said the prosecutor received the case filed by the Interior Ministry over the alleged treason.
“The prosecutor is reviewing the case and following procedure,” he said.
This is the second treason case to hit the former opposition party.
Former CNRP leader Kem Sokha was jailed on treason charges in September for allegedly conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow the governor through a colour revolution.
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.
Sok Eysan, spokesman of ruling CPP, said Mr Rainsy could not avoid being charged with treason since he allegedly signed an agreement to cede Cambodian land to a foreign state.
“We have strong evidence against Sam Rainsy,” he said. “He signed the agreement to allow the Montagnards to set up their base on Cambodian land to oppose communist Vietnam.
“Sam Rainsy would bring a war into Cambodia,” he added.