The Cambodian Court of Appeals on Tuesday reduced by three years the prison sentence for exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy on criminal charges of disinformation.
Sam Rainsy was facing a 10-year sentence for allegedly publishing a map of the border with Vietnam in 2009 that the government said was fraudulent.
Sam Rainsy has said that Cambodia is losing land to Vietnamese encroachment, a politically sensitive claim the government denies. He had offered as proof a map on his party’s website a map he said showed border encroachment in 2009. He was then charged with publishing a false map and with disinformation.
The opposition leader is also facing a two years sentence for destruction of property and racial incitement for uprooting markers on the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province in 2009, a related incident.
The charges have kept him away from the country, even as it moves towards local elections next year and national elections the year after.
Appeals Court judge Chhun Leang Meng said the new sentence reflected punishment outlined in a recently passed penal code. He issued a fine of 3 million riel, about $715, and ordered compensation to the Cambodian government of 60 million riel, about $14,300.
Sam Rainsy’s defense lawyer was not present at court on Tuesday, but he was appointed representation by the Cambodian Bar Association. The attorney, Reach Hok Seng, declined interviews after the hearing.
Government lawyer Ky Tech called the decision “fair” and said the administration would not appeal it, noting that the court had followed the new penal code rather than the Untac code previously used by the judiciary.
Sam Rainsy could not immediately be reached for comment, but Yim Sovann, a spokesman for the opposition party, said the party “does not care about the courts in Cambodia.”
He called Sam Rainsy a “patriot” for defending Cambodia’s borders and said there would be no appeal to the Supreme Court.