Cambodia Opposition Leader Charged Over COVID-19 Lockdown Comments

The charge against Sam Rainsy comes amid controversy over the severity of the lockdown around the capital Phnom Penh.

A Cambodian court has ordered the arrest of opposition leader Sam Rainsy on charges of “incitement” after he called on members of the public to disobey the strict COVID-19 lockdown that has been declared in Phnom Penh and surrounding areas.

The charge refers to comments that the exiled politician made in an interview with Radio Free Asia’s Khmer-language service on Tuesday, in which he lashed out at the government’s recently implemented lockdown, criticized its lack of aid to residents, and said its COVID-19 relief efforts were riddled with corruption.

Rainsy said that many Cambodian people are “more afraid of dying of starvation than COVID-19,” and called on people not to obey the strict lockdown that has left many without access to food and other vital necessities. “Even if I didn’t say anything, I don’t think the people have the patience to stay home until they starve, so before they die, they will disobey, and [Prime Minister] Hun Sen’s government won’t be able to do anything,” he said.

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