As opposition leaders convened in Manila on Friday to formulate a response to a series of recent political blows, CNRP President Sam Rainsy was slapped with new provisional charges of being an accomplice to forgery and incitement over a post made to his public Facebook page by someone else.
The charges follow a week in which Mr. Rainsy was effectively exiled from the country after a warrant was issued for his arrest in a seven-year-old defamation case. He also had his parliamentary immunity stripped from him after being ousted from the National Assembly by a CPP vote.
Mr. Rainsy was in South Korea when the warrant was announced and has remained abroad ever since, reneging on a vow to return to Cambodia and face prison. With the new charges against him, which carry a possible penalty of 17 additional years in jail, it was less clear than ever when he might return.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court announced the charges—being an accomplice to the crimes of forging a public document, using a forged document, and inciting chaos—in a summons issued on Friday, explaining that the charges were provisional and would be confirmed or dismissed after Mr. Rainsy appeared for questioning by an investigating judge on December 4 at 8:30 a.m.
“In the case that [Mr. Rainsy] does not go at the above time, we will issue an arrest warrant according to the law,” the summons said.
Court officials could not be reached for comment yesterday, but CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said he was aware of the provisional charges and that they related to the case of opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour, who was arrested and jailed in August on direct orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen after posting a video showing a fake border treaty on Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page.
“Even though His Excellency Hong Sok Hour said that he posted the document by himself, he posted it on the Facebook account of His Excellency Sam Rainsy, so he is an accomplice,” Mr. Eysan said.
“This action really disturbed social security because it was completely different from the original document…. It is not a normal issue, but a very serious issue.”
Mr. Rainsy said yesterday that he welcomed the news of the additional charges, although he did not respond to questions about how they might affect his decision on whether and how to return to Cambodia.
“It may seem paradoxical but it’s a good news for me: the more clownesque the CPP-controlled court becomes the stronger the support I get to find justice for all the victims of the recent political repression in Cambodia,” he said in an email.
“At this point in time, I am not going to play with clowns!” he added.
Mr. Rainsy, his deputy Kem Sokha, and CNRP lawmakers Son Chhay, Yem Ponhearith and Eng Chhay Eang met in Manila on Friday to discuss the party’s strategy for dealing with recent events, including the legal cases against Mr. Rainsy, the ousting of Mr. Sokha from the National Assembly and the beating of two opposition lawmakers outside parliament after a pro-CPP protest earlier this month.
Mr. Rainsy confirmed the meeting, but declined to elaborate on what was discussed.
“In Manila CNRP leaders are reshaping and adapting the party strategy in light of the new and evolving situation,” he said. “You understand that this cannot be made public. You will see how things will develop. But on the whole, we are optimistic because the other side has made so many mistakes.”
Mr. Eysan, the CPP spokesman, insisted that the fledgling case against Mr. Rainsy was “not political, but criminal.” However, Prime Minister Hun Sen cautioned Mr. Rainsy in a speech in Paris last month that he should beware of fresh legal trouble related to the Facebook case—and warned that if that happened, he would not receive a pardon.
“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.”
(Additional reporting by Julia Wallace)