The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday sentenced opposition lawmaker Um Sam An to two years and six months in prison for “instigating criminal acts and discrimination.”
He was also fined 4 million riel (about $1,000) for comments he made last year about alleged Vietnamese encroachment on Cambodian territory.
Hem Socheat, Sam An’s lawyer, said the sentence was “very unjust” as his client had only been acting in the best interests of his constituents.
“The sentence was too serious for my client if we compare it to ... people who beat and attempted to kill lawmakers, but the court just sentenced them for merely one year,” he said, referring to the beating of two fellow Cambodia National Rescue Party lawmakers in October 2015.
Sam An and his legal team boycotted the proceedings from the beginning of the trial, arguing that the case should never have been brought as it violated the constitutional right of MPs to immunity.
Ly Sophanna, a court spokesman, could not be reached.
Sam An, a U.S. citizen, was arrested on April 11 in Siem Reap after he returned from a visit to the United States.
Meas Ny, an analyst, said it was possible that Sam An could receive a pardon if a solution to the current political tensions was found. “If the situation remains tense, it’s difficult to see a positive outcome,” he said.
The lawmaker had been in the United States to research maps held at the Library of Congress which detailed the demarcation of the Cambodia-Vietnam border.
In a related case, CNRP Senator Hong Sok Hour was charged with forging documents after he posted a purported copy of the 1979 border treaty between the two countries online.
Lawyers for Sam An said they plan to appeal the decision.
The opposition continues to boycott parliamentary sessions in protest over what it says is a concerted campaign to use the courts to destroy the party ahead of the next general election in 2018.
In a coded reference to the boycott, Hun Sen took to Facebook on Friday.
“Although the cock doesn’t crow, the sun still rises because it’s not a hostage of any group,” he wrote.