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More convictions ahead of Rainsy’s planned return

Khuon Narim / Khmer Times Share:

The authorities are continuing to convict former opposition party members ahead of Sam Rainsy’s planned return on November 9.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday sentenced Mr Rainsy and two of his supporters in absentia to 20 months in prison.

Aside from Mr Rainsy, former CNRP lawmaker Hou Vann and Kak Komphear, a former party member, were also convicted.

The court found the three guilty of “instigating, insulting and committing a felony” after they partook in the “Clean Finger” election boycott campaign last year.

“The court has decided to sentence Sam Rainsy, Hou Vann and Kak Komphear to one year and eight months in prison,” Judge Pich Vicheathor said, adding that judicial police must arrest Mr Rainsy, Mr Vann and Mr Komphear.

Mr Rainsy, who is in exile with a handful of his allies, is purportedly planning to return to the Kingdom to restore democracy and human rights.

Ahead of his return, Mr Rainsy has been calling on citizens to participate in his “Nine Fingers” campaign, which is considered a coup by the government.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court also convicted Kong Mas, former deputy head of the CNRP’s electoral and legislative affairs team, to a 18-month prison term after he was found guilty of “incitement and committing felony” for urging citizens online to boycott last year’s national election and stand up against the government.

Mr Mas was arrested at a coffee shop in Chamkar Mon district in January after spending time in Thailand, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees rejected his application for refugee status.

During Mr Mas’ trial last month, Judge Vicheathor said Mr Mas nearing the national election last year on Facebook wrote: “Please, Khmer citizens, stand up to change Hun Sen’s regime, which has turned the country into a communist [country]. I am prepared to print 100,000 leaflets calling on people to boycott the national election, which will not reflect the will of the people.”

Outside of the courtroom on Friday, Mr Mas said his conviction was unjust and that he will seek clemency in the Appeal Court.

“It was an injustice for me, I can’t accept this decision because I did not commit what the court charged me with,” he said.

Sam Sokong, Mr Mas’ attorney, said he will speak with his client on how to move forward with the appeal case.

“It was an injustice for Mr Kong Mas because what he posted on Facebook was part of freedom of expression and he was using his political right,” Mr Sokong said, noting that his client expressed constructive criticism so the country adheres to democratic principles.

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