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Opposition Lawmaker Questioned Over Facebook Post

Jailed opposition party lawmaker Um Sam An, who was charged with incitement in April over comments he made about maps used in demarcating the Cambodia-Vietnam border, at Appeal Court on Tuesday 17th , May 2016. ( Leng Len/VOA Khmer)

Sam An, who holds American citizenship, was arrested in Siem Reap province on April 9 after he returned from the United States.

An opposition lawmaker arrested earlier this year over comments he made regarding the Cambodia-Vietnam border was questioned on Wednesday after the Court of Appeal rejected his bail request last week.

Sam Sok Kong, lawyer for Um Sam An, a Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmaker for Siem Reap province, told reporters outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday that investigating judge Tob Chhun Heng had asked his client about his use of the social networking website Facebook, where he posted the comments in question.

Sam An declined to answer all questions from the court, he added.

“Our lawyers’ intention was to request the Constitutional Council interpret Article 80 [of the constitution] … to ask whether this arrest and detention was made in line with the constitution or not,” he said.

Lawmakers are supposed to be immune from questioning and prosecution under Cambodian law.

Hem Socheat, another defense lawyer, told reporters that the judge had asked his client why he had used Facebook to criticize the government’s stance on the border issue.

Sam An, who holds American citizenship, was arrested in Siem Reap province on April 9 after he returned from the United States, where he was researching maps used in demarcating the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

He was charged the next day with “instigating criminal acts” and “instigating discrimination”.

On April 12, amid an opposition boycott, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party voted to remove Sam An’s immunity.

On the same day, Judge Chhun Heng issued a warrant for Sam An. Chhun Heng could not be reached on Wednesday.

Ly Sophanna, a court spokesman, said that Sam An had missed an opportunity by declining to answer questions in court.

“The accused, Um Sam An, when he didn’t answer the questions of the investigating judge…he will lose the benefit due to the fact that he didn’t answer to reduce his culpability before the investigating judge,” he said.

Speaking after another hearing last week, Sam An said he did not expect to be released on bail and accused the court of violating the law by breaching his parliamentary immunity.

Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, said that the map used by the government to determine the border line with Vietnam was approved by parliament, the senate and the king.

“If Um Sam An said the map was fake, the monarchy, parliament and the senate are all fakers. This is an insult to the national institutions,” he said.