The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has ordered Sam Rainsy, the former leader of the now-banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), to appear in September for questioning over a case in which he is charged with lèse-majesté, or “insulting the king,” according to a warrant summons issued by an investigating judge last week.
“Sam Rainsy is ordered...to appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court...on September 13, 2018, at 9:00 a.m. sharp to be questioned over insulting the king, done in Phnom Penh and other places on June 6, 7, and June 10, 2018,” reads the warrant issued by Investigating Judge Ham Mengser, dated August 16 and obtained by VOA Khmer on Wednesday.
The exiled former opposition leader was charged in June with lèse-majesté after he suggested that a letter from King Norodom Sihamoni calling on Cambodians to vote was actually “fake.”
After Rainsy’s Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved in November and banned from competing in July’s national elections, he and other former opposition officials urged Cambodians to boycott the poll and asked the king to get involved by appealing people to refrain from voting. When the king issued a letter in June, but dated May 18, urging people to vote, Rainsy claimed the date had been forged and the letter tampered with.
Rainsy did not respond to questions from VOA Khmer sent by email on Wednesday, but has previously stuck by his claim that the letter was “fake.” His lawyer, Choung Chou Ngy, said the charge was politically motivated.
“Sam Rainsy's activity is political activity as a politician,” he said. “Thus, all problems happening to him are political,” he said.
Rainsy is the fourth person charged this year under a controversial new lèse-majesté law criminalizing insults to the Cambodian king. The law, which was adopted by the National Assembly in February, allows prosecutors to sue anyone deemed to have insulted the king. Those convicted of lèse-majesté could face up to five years in prison as well as significant fines.