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Jail Sentence a ‘Cover Up’: Sam Rainsy

A day after receiving a two-year prison sentence in absentia, opposition leader Sam Rainsy accused Cambodian leaders of conspiring with Vietnamto put political pressure on him.

Sam Rainsy was found guilty of racial incitement and destruction of property for leading a group of villagers to uproot markers along the Vietnamese border at Svay Rieng province in October. He is now in self-imposed exile in France.

“I can declare that the accusations against me are just a pretext,” Sam Rainsy said Thursday, as a guest on “Hello VOA.”

“Indeed, they want to cover up the activities of foreigners, meaning that the powerful rulers today seem to associate with foreigners and let foreigners be right and let the Khmer be wrong,” he said, in a reference to Vietnam.

Border issues between Cambodia and its neighbors, especially Thailand and Vietnam, are political flashpoints for many Cambodians, who fear they are losing Cambodian soil to encroachment on both sides.

Sam Rainsy said Thursday he was not guilty of uprooting border markers because the markers that were knocked down in October were 280 meters inside the legal Cambodian border. He urged a review of the border using high-tech equipment.

Villagers at the time said they feared the markers were allowing Vietnamese encroachment into their rice fields.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said Cambodia’s border committee had been working to make the borders clear, not to lose Cambodian land.