PM Orders Senator’s Arrest Over Facebook Post

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday ordered the arrest of opposition senator Hong Sok Hour for “treason” over a fake treaty the senator posted to Facebook that purported to show Heng Samrin, as Cambodia’s head of state in 1979, pledging to dissolve the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Mr. Hun Sen said he was browsing Facebook late on Wednesday night but had trouble sleeping after coming across the post from Mr. Sok Hour.

Opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour speaks at the CNRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour speaks at the CNRP’s headquarters in Phnom Penh on Monday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“There is a post on Facebook concerning a fake treaty, which cannot be pardoned and needs action taken,” the prime minister said. “The senator not only posted this fake treaty, but also made some commentary. So we cannot pardon him.”

Mr. Hun Sen said Mr. Sok Hour posted a fake treaty purporting to show Mr. Samrin and then-Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong agreeing that “the two parties will negotiate and sign off on dissolving the borders of the two countries.”

The prime minister said Mr. Sok Hour had been caught red-handed “faking a national public document” and could be arrested by the police, despite his immunity from arrest or prosecution as a senator.

The Constitution allows police to disregard immunity when a lawmaker is caught in the act of committing a crime, and Mr. Hun Sen said that the CPP’s 46 senators in the 61-seat body could easily vote to strip Mr. Sok Hour’s immunity.

“It is not difficult to deal with a Senate member, as the voices from the CPP are over two-thirds, [they can] strip his immunity,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

“They already accused the government of using fake maps, and we did not react. Now it’s posted [online], and it’s a red-handed crime that he shall be arrested for immediately.”

Mr. Sok Hour, a senator for the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP)—a legacy opposition party that exists for legal reasons—has played a central role in the CNRP’s recent campaign to uncover Vietnamese encroachments into Cambodia.

Last month, he traveled to Paris to collect border maps the CNRP says it will use to check if border posts have been correctly placed by the government, after the opposition claimed the government had illegally ceded land to Vietnam.

In his speech Thursday, the prime minister warned Mr. Sok Hour, a French citizen, not to flee overseas or seek safety in a foreign embassy, saying that his Facebook post was treasonous and could cause a war to break out with Vietnam.

“Every embassy should not accept anyone running into their embassy…. Every embassy should not interfere, as this is national treason,” Mr. Hun Sen said. “Please, citizens, do not blame the government, because national treason cannot be pardoned.

“If there is a movement created because of incitement to break up the countries, causing a dispute with the neighboring countries, who would be held accountable if war occurs?” he said.

“Pochentong [Phnom Penh International Airport] and all the other checkpoints have been blocked. So arrest this person, and do not let him run into a foreign embassy.”

Soem Vuthy, deputy Phnom Penh police chief, said the National Police were handling the case. National Police officials could not be reached.

About an hour after Mr. Hun Sen’s morning speech, SRP President Kong Korm said by telephone that Mr. Sok Hour had been arrested at the CNRP’s Phnom Penh headquarters.

However, Mr. Sok Hour’s personal assistant, Sambath David, said that Mr. Korm’s claims were wrong and that the senator was in hiding.

“He has not been arrested yet. He is in hiding now and I can say that he is in a safe place,” he said.

Mr. Sok Hour’s personal telephone rang Thursday but no one answered. Teav Vannol, a fellow SRP senator, said he did not know where Mr. Sok Hour was hiding.

“I tried to call him today but I could not get through to him. I do not know where he is. The only confirmation I have got so far is that he is in a safe place,” Mr. Vannol said.

French Embassy spokesman Nicolas Baudouin said by telephone that the French citizen was not at the embassy.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy did not respond to a request for comment. However, the SRP issued a statement rejecting Mr. Hun Sen’s claims that Mr. Sok Hour’s Facebook post was an act of treason.

“The Sam Rainsy Party’s permanent committee has examined [this] and thinks that the use of an unofficial document and Hong Sok Hour’s interpretation in his status as a senator is not treason as alleged by the prime minister,” the party said.

“If the use of the document and the interpretation was not correct, Hong Sok Hour can correct it before the public.”

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

[email protected]

© 2015, All rights reserved.