Defending SRP President Sam Rainsy against charges of disinformation and map forgery, lawyer Choung Choungy said yesterday he had called on Phnom Penh Municipal Court to form a committee to review opposition party evidence of border encroachment.
Mr Choungy appeared at the courthouse yesterday in Mr Rainsy’s place to answer a summons for questioning. The opposition president is currently in self-imposed exile in France to avoid a two-year prison sentence for uprooting border posts in Svay Rieng province.
Judge Oeung Seang, who is investigating the latest charges against Mr Rainsy, was unavailable yesterday but Mr Choungy said he had not been questioned in the absence of his client. He said he had invited Judge Seang and the prosecution to form a committee to give the charges a closer look.
The court charged Mr Rainsy on March 12 for allegedly falsifying maps of Cambodia’s border with Vietnam.
“The investigating judge did not ask any questions because Sam Rainsy was absent but he received my proposals and said he would examine them,” Mr Choungy said after leaving the court.
Mr Choungy said he also asked that the prosecution provide more evidence to support its own claims about the pulled border posts, a matter over which Mr Rainsy was already convicted by another court in January. A series of maps Mr Rainsy has posted on his party’s website suggest the posts lie hundreds of meters inside Cambodian territory.
The SRP president faces 18 years in prison on the current charges.
Government lawyer Ky Tech said he would not comment on Mr Choungy’s proposals because he had yet to hear of them from the court. Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said a broader investigation committee would be unconstitutional.
The “lawyer has to go to court to show what evidence he has to challenge the charge…. He cannot order the government to create a committee,” he said. “If he saw something wrong, he has to prove it in court.”
Mr Siphan said the government had original versions of the maps Mr Rainsy allegedly falsified but declined to release them because they were part of an ongoing investigation.
“Only the court can decide who is right or wrong,” he said.
Mr Rainsy has labeled the charges against him as political.