Hun Sen Warns Rainsy of Fresh Legal Trouble

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday warned CNRP President Sam Rainsy that he could be prosecuted over the same forgery and incitement case that led to the arrest of opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour in August.

Speaking to a group of about 800 Cambodian students and expatriates on Sunday evening in Paris while on a state visit to France, Mr. Hun Sen defended the arrest of Mr. Sok Hour despite his parliamentary immunity as a member of the Senate.

Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks in Paris on Sunday, in a photograph posted to his personal Facebook page.
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks in Paris on Sunday, in a photograph posted to his personal Facebook page.

The senator was arrested and charged over a video he posted to Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page showing a fake treaty purporting to reveal a 1979 deal between Cambodia and Vietnam to dissolve their shared border. Mr. Sok Hour claims that he found the document through a Google search and did not forge it.

“Please do not be confused about why he was arrested even though he had immunity,” Mr. Hun Sen told his audience in Paris. “We respect immunity, but in cases of flagrante delicto, they can be arrested immediately.”

The Constitution allows for the arrest of members of parliament when they are caught in flagrante delicto, or in the act of committing a crime. At the time of Mr. Sok Hour’s arrest, Mr. Rainsy called it “wrong” and “far-fetched” to apply the in flagrante delicto provision to a Facebook post.

In Paris, however, Mr. Hun Sen said the same provision could soon land the CNRP president in court, too, because the video had been posted to his Facebook page.

“The page’s owner is Rainsy, so it can be involved with that guy,” the prime minister said. “This time, I will not pardon him because I have granted him a pardon two times already.”

Mr. Hun Sen most recently arranged for Mr. Rainsy’s royal pardon in 2013, paving the way for the opposition leader to return to Cambodia after spending over three years in self-imposed exile in France. He fled there after being convicted of incitement and destruction of public property in 2010 for uprooting a temporary post along the Vietnamese border during a protest.

Mr. Rainsy was also sentenced to jail in 2005 for defaming the prime minister, but received a royal pardon brokered by Mr. Hun Sen the following year.

“It’s said that I rely on prisons, handcuffs, the military and police. So, after taking power, if we do not rely on these things, what can we rely on?” the premier said. “Now I ask him back: If he takes power, what will he rely on? It has never been that we rely on candles and incense sticks when we take power.”

Mr. Hun Sen sought to defend his tactics by reminding his audience that even former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was taken to court after his government was replaced by that of current President Francois Hollande.

“When Hollande took power, Sarkozy was questioned in court. Why wasn’t that called politically motivated?” he asked.

Mr. Sarkozy was questioned by police last year as part of a court investigation into allegations of influence peddling by him and his law- yer. Mr. Sarkozy has accused his enemies of using a succession of scandals to bring him down and derail his political comeback.

Mr. Hun Sen spent most of his two-hour speech praising Cambodia’s impressive economic growth over the past several years and its defense of its borders, including its legal victories over Thailand at the International Court of Justice.

Before finishing, however, the prime minister could not help gloating about Mr. Rainsy’s failure to replace him—and about their childrens’ comparative academic achievements.

“I came to France with the French president greeting me as prime minister. There is no Prime Minister Sam Rainsy,” he said.

Mr. Hun Sen said he was also making a $300 donation to each of the 105 Cambodian students currently studying in France, insisting that it was not a payoff for the students to come and listen to him talk. Mr. Hun Sen has blamed the CNRP for recent rumors that he had threatened to revoke the scholarship of any Cambodian student in France who did not attend his speech, a claim the opposition denies.

“I hope the opposition will not make the accusation that they are hired to listen to me,” Mr. Hun Sen said, making a point to issue a general “hello” to all Cambodians regardless of their political affiliations.

“Here I am speaking even to the children of Rainsy, whom I respect, love and see that they are good people. But I don’t know how Rainsy sees my children,” he said. “Of course, Rainsy’s abilities and degrees are far lower than my childrens’. He and his children do not yet have any doctorate degrees. My kids, a couple of them hold doctorate degrees and the rest hold master’s degrees.

“But I have never bragged about my children’s doctorates and master’s degrees,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “Only Rainsy has bragged and looked down on us.”

Mr. Rainsy, who is traveling in Europe, did not reply to a request for comment on the prime minister’s latest remarks. Spokesmen for the CNRP could not be reached.

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