Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued an official arrest warrant for opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Tuesday.
He is accused of distributing false information on his party’s website, which accuses the Cambodian government of ceding land to neighboring Vietnam.
The charge, for distribution of false information, carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Sam Rainsy, who remains in exile after an earlier conviction in absentia for uprooting border markers near Vietnam, claims the courts are being manipulated by the ruling party to damage the opposition.
Border issues are a political flashpoint in Cambodia, and the government claims that a map posted on the Sam Rainsy Party website, which purports to show current border demarcation and previous borders, is a falsification and crime.
Meanwhile, villagers in Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea disrict say they have lost farmland to Vietnamese encroachment.
“We have decided to arrest Sam Rainsy and order public forces to search for and detain him and bring him to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for legal action,” Oeung Seang, an investigating judge for the court, told VOA Khmer Tuesday.
Choung Chou Ngy, a legal representative for Sam Rainsy, confirmed receipt of an arrest warrant and said Sam Rainsy was aware of it.
He declined to give details on how he would defend his client against the charges.
Government lawyer Ky Tech said he had requested the arrest of Sam Rainsy “in conformity with the law.”
Ky Tech, who was also Prime Minister Hun Sen’s lawyer in a defamation case against opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua, said the map on Sam Rainsy’s website had been falsified.
“His falseness made border markers outside of the correct or real place, where the Cambodian-Vietnamese joint border commission is still working,” Ky Tech said.
Var Kimhong, head of the Cambodian border commission, said in a May 26 letter to the court: “The map that Sam Rainsy produced and published is a false map.”
Speaking from Paris, Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer the map “helps to protect Cambodian territory from Vietnamese invasion.”
“I don’t care about the arrest warrant, because this is not only the problem of Sam Rainsy or the Sam Rainsy Party, but it is the problem of all of Cambodia against the Vietnamese invasion,” he said. “We are uniting together to protect our Cambodian territory.”
All 26 of the National Assembly Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers have complained to the UN about the alleged Vietnamese encroachment, he said.