Senator Still on Run as Rainsy Set to Return

Opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour, whose arrest was ordered in a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday, remained on the run Friday with the Interior Ministry calling on the public to provide information about his whereabouts.

CNRP President Sam Rainsy, a close friend to Mr. Sok Hour, is set to return to Cambodia on Sunday, and will seek to negotiate with the government to prevent the arrest of the senator, according to another opposition senator. 

Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that he was unsure if an arrest warrant had been issued for Mr. Sok Hour, who drew the prime minister’s ire by posting a fake treaty regarding Cambodia’s border with Vietnam to his Facebook page. But he said that police were actively searching for the senator.

“So far we haven’t arrested him yet because he is at large,” General Sopheak said. “We are implementing the search for him. We will appeal for those people, if they know where he is, please contact the police.”

Gen. Sopheak said that Mr. Sok­hour, a French citizen, was at the French Embassy on Thursday morning in the hours after Mr. Hun Sen’s speech, but left before midday.

“He left the French Embassy yesterday before 12 o’clock. That is the information we received,” he said.

Mr. Sok Hour’s crime, he added, required urgent action by police regardless of whether the court had issued an arrest warrant.

“This information intends to make people rise up against the government, so that’s the bad intention of that guy, so the arrest will be done immediately,” Gen. Sopheak said.

In his speech on Thursday, Mr. Hun Sen accused the opposition senator of treason for posting a fake treaty that purported to show Heng Samrin, as Cambodia’s head of state in 1979, pledging to dissolve the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

“There is a post on Facebook concerning a fake treaty, which cannot be pardoned and needs action taken,” the prime minister said. “The senator not only posted this fake treaty, but also made some commentary. So we cannot pardon him.”

Mr. Hun Sen said that Mr. Sok Hour’s immunity as a senator could easily be removed by the CPP’s overwhelming majority in the Senate.

“They already accused the government of using fake maps, and we did not react. Now it’s posted [online], and it’s a red-handed crime that he shall be arrested for immediately,” Mr. Hun Sen said.

Acting CNRP spokesman Ou Chanrith said on Friday that the party had already engaged the government in discussions about resolving the situation without arresting Mr. Sok Hour.

“We don’t know the whereabouts of Hong Sok Hour and actually we do some discussion regarding this matter,” Mr. Chanrith said. “We can’t say much, we discuss some issues with the government officials. I can’t elaborate on that.”

Mr. Chanrith said Mr. Sok Hour had no intention to spread disinformation.

“If he has mistakenly quoted or got an unreliable source, he should apologize or correct what he has said or printed,” Mr. Chanrith said.

Teav Vannol, an opposition senator, said that Mr. Rainsy, the opposition leader, was scheduled to return from a trip to Europe and the U.S. on Sunday morning.

“And then he will negotiate with the government to see if we can compromise and stop the arrest of senator Hong Sok Hour, that is the plan,” he said.

Mr. Rainsy did not respond to a request for comment.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan, however, said that Mr. Sok Hour’s case was a legal matter that could not be settled through political channels.

“I think that it is not difficult for CNRP leaders to meet with CPP leaders since Samdech Techo Hun Sen is always very open to meet with them to discuss issues,” he said.

“But the objective of the talks must be clear because the culture of dialogue can discuss political issues, but discussions that interfere with judicial institutions and criminal issues are not possible to do,” he said.

Mr. Eysan added that Mr. Sok Hour’s crime must be prosecuted.

“We think that he faked [the treaty] with very ill intentions to frame the CPP—that the CPP wanted to dissolve borderlines,” he said.

“Because [Mr. Sok Hour] wanted people to rebel against government, that is why Samdech Techo Hun Sen announced that such an act is national treason that cannot be pardoned.”

(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)

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