The UN human rights office on Friday expressed regret over the Jan 27 trial of opposition party president Sam Rainsy, saying that the courts were again used for political ends.
The trial concerned “a public interest issue” that could have been openly addressed “through public debate within Cambodia’s democratic institutions,” the UN agency said in statement.
According to the agency’s statement, an observer from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was present during Mr Rainsy’s hours-long trial, where he was ordered to pay more than 26 million riel in fines and compensation and sentenced in absentia to two years in prison.
The SRP president could have handled the situation differently, the statement said.
“As a member of parliament and a leader of the opposition, he could have raised his concerns about the current process of border demarcation and sought clarification from the relevant authorities or the border demarcation committee, or discussed them at the National Assembly or otherwise publicly,” the statement said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan defended the country’s legal system, saying that it allows for those convicted to appeal if they feel they have been wronged.
“If they don’t like it, they can go to the Supreme Court,” he said yesterday.
The Svay Rieng Provincial Court sentenced Mr Rainsy for racial incitement against Vietnamese and uprooting demarcation posts on the border with Vietnam.
Two villagers, Prum Chea and Meas Srey, were also convicted for damaging the six posts and are now serving one-year prison terms and must also pay several millions of riel in fines.
The wife of Mr Chea, Chhoeung Sarin, said her family is already feeling the affects of her husband’s absence by running low on food. She has kept in regular contact with her husband through prison visits since he was detained in Dec 23 and added both Mr Chea and Ms Srey are not receiving enough provisions.
“I need more rice to help them at the prison. Right now I cannot feed them,” said Ms Sarin, adding she harbors no hard feelings against Mr Rainsy.