Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday ordered authorities to take legal action against any individual or organization that accuses the government of using the wrong maps to demarcate the country’s border, according to a statement from the Council of Ministers.
The order comes a day after the government received maps from the U.N. that it says validate its own maps, and a week after opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour was arrested on Mr. Hun Sen’s orders for presenting a doctored copy of a border treaty with Vietnam in a video posted on Facebook.
“Samdech Prime Minister put out an order to authorities at national and sub-national levels to use immediate legal measures for groups or individuals who accuse the government of using fake maps in planting border markers and insult the king and national institutions,” the statement said.
Mr. Hun Sen also wrote to opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Friday morning warning him that those who continue to criticize the government’s border work will face the courts, according to a message posted to the CPP’s Facebook page.
“Through this brief explanation, H.E. [Mr. Rainsy] shall understand why Hong Sok Hour was arrested, and legal action will be taken against anyone who says [the] government is using fake maps, inciting and cheating people to cause instability in order to exploit for votes by not thinking of the legal interests of the nation and people,” it said.
“I hope that from now on the border issue, especially [the] Cambodia-Vietnam border, will no longer be a political game to cheat people by Your Excellency and the others in the party of Your Excellency.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan confirmed the authenticity of the message and that it had been sent to Mr. Rainsy. Asked if the government would also take legal action against those who claim that border posts have been improperly placed, he said: “Yes, because they are not experts.”
“When there is proof that the right maps are being used, there is no reason for [border markers to be placed] inside or outside the [correct] position,” Mr. Eysan said.
For the past three months, the opposition has waged a campaign to reveal Vietnamese incursions into Cambodian territory, calling on the government to make public the maps it has used to demarcate the border with Vietnam so that the physical placement of border posts can be checked.
The campaign peaked on July 19 when CNRP lawmaker Real Camerin led some 2,500 supporters to a disputed area along the Vietnamese border in Svay Rieng province. Two days later, 11 CNRP activists in a long-running “insurrection” trial were abruptly sentenced to between seven and 20 years in prison.
On Monday, Mr. Rainsy told reporters that the opposition party would no longer “poke” the government on the border issue after he visited Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison to meet with the activists, whose imprisonment he has interpreted as a message for the CNRP to end its border campaign.
“If we know they are sensitive, we won’t poke their waists, we will look for a [new] way. When we know they are sensitive, we have to be careful and comfort them somehow to find a result for the nation,” Mr. Rainsy said at the time.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said on Friday, however, that the opposition would continue to hold the government to account for its work in demarcating the border.
“When they do right, we support, we congratulate them,” he said.
“When they do wrong, we will continue to criticize—we will provide constructive recommendations,” he added. “If you stop the criticism, I want to ask them: Is it a democratic society?”
Mr. Sovann said he did not understand why the government was effectively making it illegal to speak about concerns that Cambodian territory is not being protected.
“We are not enemies, we are Cambodian, we come from Cambodian blood, so we have to think about our border issues, about the national interests, about our nation’s land.”
(Additional reporting by Colin Meyn)