Following a court decision last week that sentenced Sam Rainsy to 10 years in prison, the exiled opposition leader maintained in an interview the cases against him are political.
“I am not surprised,” Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer in a question-and-answer session, reacting to a court decision. “Instead, it encourages me, because if the Phnom Penh government has its court sentence me, it means I am right.”
Sam Rainsy was convicted of forgery and disinformation, after he published a map alleging Vietnamese land encroachment on his party's website.
“It would worry me if the government praised me,” he said. “Given that the government mistreats people and serves a foreign country, it is good for me that they are angry with me. On the contrary, if it praised me, people would suspect me. The conviction tells people that I am loyal to the nation.”
Sam Rainsy has said he expects an international political solution to this case and a second, as he was not defending his own property but that of Cambodia.
Government officials have denied Vietnamese land encroachment and say the map he distributed on the website was forged and made false claims.
Sam Rainsy said the case involves both Cambodia and Vietnam, which makes it international in scope.
“My conviction was internationally, politically motivated and needs an international solution,” he said.
He also denied a request to European parliamentarians for help signaled concern for his party and may reflect the difficulties of leading from abroad. But he said Cambodia had been saved once by international intervention in its civil war against the Vietnamese-backed government of the 1980s.
“I'm neither worried about myself or the Sam Rainsy Party,” he said. “I'm worried about Cambodia. If I cared about myself, I would not have become a politician.”
He was also optimistic a political solution could be found. He cited the return of Prime Minister Hun Sen's onetime political rival, Prince Norodom Ranarridh, who was also in exile prior to the 2008 elections, as an example. And he dismissed comments from ruling party officials that said his appeal for international intervention had sullied Cambodia's image.
Sam Rainsy also expressed optimism for the long term and urged Cambodians to work together.
“Nothing is immortal,” he said. “When Pol Pot controlled Cambodia, no one expected Pol Pot to be toppled. But those who mistreat people will vanish like Pol Pot.”