The Cambodian government lodged a criminal complaint against opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday, for publishing a Vietnamese border map on his party’s Web site the government claims is false.
The complaint was filed in Phnom Penh Municipal Court by government lawyer Ky Tech on Friday. Investigating judge Sok Klyan said he had received the complaint from prosecutors on Friday, but he did not give a timeline for concluding his investigation.
The charge of disinformation carries a jail term of three years, but the charge of distributing a false public document is more serious and calls for as much as 15 years in prison.
The Sam Rainsy Party claims on its Web site the Cambodia has lost land to Vietnamese encroachment. The map on the Web site is an apparent attempt to bolster those claims.
The map was posted on the Web site after Sam Rainsy was found guilty in January for destruction of property, for uprooting markers on the Vietnamese border where villagers said they had lost land to encroachment.
Land encroachment accusations from the Thai and Vietnamese borders are political flashpoints in Cambodia. In 2003 unsubstantiated rumors that a Thai actress had claimed Angkor Wat should belong to Thailand led to rioting and the looting and burning of the Thai Embassy.
Sam Rainsy has said the map on his Web site, depicting the Cambodia-Vietnam border in 1952, is correct. On hearing the government was considering a lawsuit earlier this week, Sam Rainsy told reporters, “The court can sentence me to prison, but Cambodian cannot lose its land.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen said earlier this week Sam Rainsy was a “betrayer of the nation” for posting the map on his Web site, a serious charge in the Khmer language.
Am Sam Ath, head of investigations for the right group Adhoc, said the government “should not think about complaints against the opposition leader, because Cambodia is facing a border dispute with
Thailand. So the government and the opposition should unite to protect Cambodian sovereignty and the borders with all the neighbors.”
The complaint will bring concern to the people over Cambodia’s political situation, he said. “It is not in the interest for the whole of Cambodian society.”