Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy has again said that Vietnam’s Montagnards will unite with Cambodia, a claim that landed him treason charges earlier this year.
In video footage in the US that surfaced on Facebook on Sunday, Mr Rainsy said: “We are all Khmer citizens in Cambodia. I cannot speak on behalf of Vietnam, but I can make sure that we will be united in one nation with the Degar people; you will have your rights with distinguished rights, your identity, your culture, so that you feel proud of the Degar people living under Cambodia’s shrine.”
“We will preserve your identity, preserve your property, preserve your assets, and preserve your culture, your religion,” he added.
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.
Mr Rainsy also said in the video that he was fighting for the freedom of Montagnards.
“I am fighting for democracy in Cambodia, fighting to ensure that the human rights of everybody is respected. I am sure that we will contribute to make Vietnam one day a democratic country so that the right of Degar people in Vietnam will be respected as they are living in Cambodia,” Mr Rainsy said.
Mr Rainsy was summoned by Phnom Penh Municipal Court to appear at the court for questioning in May after he was accused of agreeing to cede four northeastern provinces to Vietnam’s Montagnards if he won the 2013 election.
The case stems 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 Montagnard association in the US.
In the new video, Mr Rainsy said he welcomed Mr Ksor to visit Ratanakkiri, Mondulkiri, Stung Treng and Kratie provinces.
Mr Ksor, who also appeared in the new video, thanked Mr Rainsy for his support of Montagnards.
“We hope one day you will be the leader, and Cambodia will be free,” Mr Ksor said.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said that Mr Rainsy’s continued comments are useless.
“I don’t understand what he wants because Montagnards are indigenous people living in Vietnam,” Mr Siphan said.“If we take those people, it will affect our national security because we do not meddle with their internal affairs.”
Mr Rainsy has lived in exile since 2015 after being hit with slew of court cases, including by Prime Minister Hun Sen who accused him of defamation.
Deputy prosecutor Sieng Sok, who is in charge of the case linked to the 2013 video, declined to comment yesterday and referred questions to court spokesman Ly Sophanna, who could not be reached for comment.