The lawyer for opposition party president Sam Rainsy says he will appear on behalf of his client at an investigation hearing in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today.
It is still not clear, however, whether an arrest warrant will be issued for the SRP leader over his failure to attend the hearing, for which he has been summoned to answer an investigating judge’s questions about alleged map forgery and disseminating disinformation.
Lawyer Chou Choungy said yesterday that he will appear in place of Mr Rainsy, who is in self-imposed exile in France, at the court today.
“Sam Rainsy will not appear at the municipal court because he is overseas,” Mr Choungy said.
“I will…listen to what is the judge’s question about the Sam Rainsy issue.”
According to the summons sent to Mr Rainsy by municipal court Investigating Judge Oeung Seang, an arrest warrant will be issued for the SRP leader if he fails to show up in court today.
Mr Choungy, however, argued that he believes Cambodian law allows for him to appear in place of his client in front of the investigation judge.
Deputy municipal prosecutor Sok Roeun said that only the investigating judge could comment about what the procedure would be if Mr Rainsy does not attend court. Judge Seang could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The court charged Mr Rainsy on March 12 with spreading disinformation and dissemination of false documents over his publication of maps purporting to show a loss of Cambodian territory as a result of the recent demarcation of the Cambodia-Vietnam border in Svay Rieng province.
Mr Rainsy faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted of the charges, which were brought after the government lodged a complaint at the court against the opposition party leader.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP was afraid of Mr Rainsy’s presence in Cambodia and the courts do not work impartially.
“They [have found] a way to keep Sam Rainsy out of the country,” Mr Sovann said.
“If the court is independent, Sam Rainsy will be released from the charges, but I don’t expect that result,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Zsombor Peter)