In his final turn on the stand before a verdict is handed down next month, jailed opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday that he had hoped his criticism of the government’s border work would unite, not divide, the country.
Mr. Sok Hour was arrested in August last year, two days after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered his arrest after watching a Facebook video of the senator presenting a fake border treaty in which Cambodia agrees to dissolve its border with Vietnam.
The video and arrest came at the height of tensions created by a damning campaign by the CNRP to expose Vietnamese incursions into Cambodia and other irregularities in the demarcation of the countries’ shared border.
The senator was charged with forgery and incitement, accusations he has denied, claiming that he simply found the treaty online years ago after Googling “1979 treaty.” He could face up to 17 years in prison if convicted of both charges.
Delivering his closing argument in the case—a verdict is expected on November 7—Mr. Sok Hour claimed he had hoped his activism would get the government onto the same page as the opposition.
“I have only one aim: to unite the nation,” he said. “Especially over border issues and to have a settlement and a joint resolution. I did not aim to incite.”
The senator then criticized the government for its lack of cooperation in reviewing border treaties with Vietnam to ensure that Cambodia’s larger neighbor was not eating away at its territory.
“Related to the treaty there was no cooperation from the government about the border issue. There was zero,” he said.
After initially appearing to feel the pressure from the CNRP’s campaign, sending terse diplomatic missives to Hanoi about alleged incursions, Mr. Hun Sen quickly decided to take a different course of action, ordering the arrest of Mr. Sok Hour and announcing that anyone who accused the government of using the wrong border maps would face legal action.
Court prosecutor Sieng Sok yesterday rejected Mr. Sok Hour’s defense and said the senator was clearly attempting to pass off the document as being legitimate in a malicious effort to stoke anger against the government.
“The intention was to incite public anger and make the public confused about the border issue,” he said.
Choung Choungy, a lawyer for the senator, said there was no case to be made against his client due to the fact that he had simply found the fake treaty online.
“The question is: Did he produce it or not? He took it from the internet through Google,” Mr. Choungy said. “There is no legal basis to accuse him of incitement. Did Hong Sok Hour affect the real treaty? He did not.”