The opposition has launched a campaign to demand the release of its president, Kem Sokha, who is being held on espionage charges.
Son Chhay, the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s chief whip, told reporters on Monday that banners bearing Sokha’s image and pleas for his release had been erected at party offices around the country.
“The banners with Kem Sokha’s photo calling for his immediate release come from our heart so I am not worried about any unexpected legal issues,” he said.
“As I have said, unless he [Sokha] pleads guilty, we still have an opportunity to demand his freedom as soon as possible.”
Sokha was arrested on September 3 and later charged with treason-related offenses for allegedly conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow the government in a “color revolution”.
He is being held at the remote Tropaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province.
Khieu Sopheak, interior ministry spokesman, claimed that putting up banners to call for Sokha’s release was “one of the color revolution tactics Kem Sokha learned from his teachers.”
The government’s claims stem from a speech Sokha gave years ago where he talked about being advised by unnamed persons in the United States and Canada to quit politics and form the Cambodian Center for Human Rights as a strategy for gaining grassroots support for democratic change.
Sopheak said that the government would not allow the CNRP to continue to display the banners. “We do not need it, so we will not allow it to happen,” he said.
Sokha was due in court on Tuesday, however, the prisons department suggested it may not allow him to appear in court in person over unspecified safety concerns.
CNRP lawmakers on Monday said they would attend the hearing at the Appeals Court.
Touch Tharith, court spokesman, could not be reached.
Sok Sam Oeun, a legal expert, said it was “not right” to claim that erecting banners was part of a supposed “color revolution”.
“They just put up banners... The constitution permits non-violent demonstrations. It is legal,” he said.