Another arrest warrant has been issued for opposition leader Sam Rainsy—who is living in France to avoid two years in jail for a defamation conviction—after he failed to turn up for questioning about a separate forgery and incitement case last month.
Following a pattern set in past electoral cycles, Mr. Rainsy has not set foot in Cambodia since a warrant was issued for his arrest on November 13, this time for an old conviction for defaming Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in a public speech in 2007.
The new warrant, made public by the online Fresh News service, was issued on December 9 by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and notes Mr. Rainsy failed to appear for questioning in the forgery case against imprisoned Senator Hong Sok Hour.
“Sam Rainsy was summoned to present himself by the investigating judge on December 4, 2015, but this person did not come to show himself to the judges for questioning at that time,” Investigating Judge Kor Vandy wrote.
The judge added that he: “Orders the public armed forces to search for, arrest and present Sam Rainsy, who has the identity as above, to a correctional center of the Interior Ministry.”
Neither Judge Vandy nor Taing Sunlay, the director of the municipal court, could be reached for comment on Tuesday. Judge Vandy’s clerk, Seng Malab, said that she could not comment on the case.
Mr. Rainsy faces up to 17 years in prison if found guilty of being an accomplice to Mr. Sok Hour, who was jailed in August on Prime Minister Hun Sen’s orders for presenting a forged diplomatic treaty with Vietnam in a video posted to Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page.
Mr. Sok Hour, a close friend of Mr. Rainsy, used the treaty as evidence that the 1980s government, for which Mr. Hun Sen served as foreign minister and then premier, agreed to dissolve the border with Vietnam.
The senator faces charges of forging a public document, using a forged document, and incitement. Mr. Rainsy stands accused of being accomplice to each, due to the use of his Facebook account.
Mr. Rainsy said by telephone on Tuesday he had seen the arrest warrant and was not surprised by it.
“I expect many other similar arrest warrants to be issued against me. They are just using their courts to prevent me from coming back in the future. This is a political issue, not a judicial issue,” Mr. Rainsy said.
Asked why he believed he was facing another arrest warrant after making it clear he had no plans to return and face the first, Mr. Rainsy said he suspected it was part of an effort to silence him online.
“It relates to my Facebook team,” he said. “They will create problems for all my colleagues who manage my Facebook page in Cambodia, so I think they want to shut down my page by targeting those other people.”
Since the 2013 national election, Facebook has become a key battlefield in political campaigning, and arrest warrants were issued late last year for two of Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook administrators in relation to Mr. Sok Hour’s case. Both have fled from Cambodia.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he believed Mr. Rainsy was guilty as charged.
“I see that he really is an accomplice, because he provided his Facebook account to publish the border documents between Cambodia and Vietnam saying that both sides agree to dissolve the border with each other,” Mr. Eysan said.
“It’s an insensitive point that the opposition party always uses…for political profit.”
Last week, Mr. Hun Sen promised to cut off his right arm if he requests another royal pardon for Mr. Rainsy, as he did for the opposition leader’s convictions during previous electoral terms.
Mr. Rainsy, who also holds French citizenship, said on Tuesday that he still plans to return freely to Cambodia in the future.
“They have always said that after my previous exiles. This is my fourth time in exile. The first three times, they said the same thing, and they were adamant that they would not let me in, but it is just political showing off,” he said.
Koul Panha, executive director of the Committee for Free and Fair Elections, said he believed the latest warrant was part of a campaign to put pressure on Mr. Rainsy as the CPP is also in the process of amending the law to bar dual citizens from being party leaders.
“It’s to make sure he’s not able to return,” he said. “They are now preparing the law on political parties to force party leaders to have only one citizenship. It’s about putting political pressure on Sam Rainsy.”
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