The Court of Appeal yesterday heard appeals for the January convictions of self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy and two villagers for illegally removing Cambodia-Vietnam border posts. A verdict is set to be announced Oct 13.
Mr Rainsy was sentenced to two years in prison for damaging public property and racial incitement after leading villagers who removed six temporary border posts last year. Villagers Prum Chea and Meas Srey each received one-year sentences for damaging public property.
Mr Rainsy’s lawyer, Chuong Chuongy, said at yesterday’s roughly four-hour hearing that uprooting the border posts was legal because they were in Cambodian territory.
“My client did uproot the post during that time because it is an illegal marker,” Mr Chuongy said. “Sam Rainsy went there to see the post and help the victim, and he had no intention to incite [people] about the Vietnam border.”
Government lawyer Chan Sokyieng said Mr Rainsy had incited villagers to uproot border markers.
“Sam Rainsy intended to incite with Vietnam by encouraging people to be angry about the border,” Mr Sokyieng said, adding that Mr Rainsy and villagers had removed posts.
Mr Chea and Ms Srey, who were brought from prison to testify yesterday, denied that they had moved the border posts. Ms Srey said she had merely held an uprooted post for a photo.
“I did not uproot the marker, and I saw Sam Rainsy touch it and move it around,” said Ms Srey. “He ordered other villagers to uproot it. I request the court to release me to live with my children.”
At the end of the hearing, Judge Khun Leangmeng said the court would issue a verdict Oct 13.
In a telephone interview, SRP spokesman Yim Sovann reiterated past criticism, saying the courts were “controlled by the CPP.”
“The longer [Mr Rainsy] appeals, the bad choice of the court will be known,” Mr Sovann said.
(Additional reporting by Clancy McGilligan)