On the first day of his trial on Friday, opposition senator Hong Sok Hour—who was charged with forgery and incitement in August for posting a video to Facebook that showed a fake border treaty with Vietnam—denied having fabricated the document, saying that he found it on the Internet years ago.
Mr. Sok Hour told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court he found the document sometime in 2006 or 2007 after Googling “1979 treaty.”
He decided to share it online to encourage people to research Vietnamese border encroachments, said Mr. Sok Hour, who played a central role in the CNRP’s recent campaign to expose alleged Vietnamese incursions into Cambodia.
“I did not forge the document myself. What I found was on the Internet,” he said.
Asked by Presiding Judge Ros Piseth why he had decided to post the video showing the fake treaty on Facebook, he responded, “The purpose was to share information for Khmer people to study more on that issue.”
“I did not post it with the intention to provoke chaos, as the court accuses. I did not manipulate, cut or touch the document,” he added.
Also Friday, Judge Piseth denied Mr. Sok Hour bail, despite the senator’s claims that his already poor health was aggravated by prison conditions.
“The reason I ask for bail is because I am facing health problems including high blood pressure, which requires me to take daily medicine, and the situation in the prison cell is not good, as there are 10 to 20 inmates,” Mr. Sok Hour said.
After leaving the courtroom, the senator briefly addressed reporters, telling them, “The court has charged me with incitement, but there was no incitement. It was explaining the border issue to activists.”
Human Rights Watch on Thursday issued a statement condemning the prosecution of Mr. Sok Hour and accusing the government of infringing on the right to free expression. The group also noted that Mr. Sok Hour did not appear to have knowingly committed a crime, as the treaty he posted appeared to be a poor translation, rather than a deliberate fake.
“An examination of the language used in the two texts strongly indicates that the version posted by Hong Sok Hour is not a forgery, but a bad translation back into Khmer of a poor translation of the Khmer original into French or English.”