Rainsy doubles down on King criticism following conviction

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Sam Rainsy pictured talking to reporters in 2015. Hong Menea

Sam Rainsy, the “acting President” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), on Friday called King Norodom Sihamoni “weak” as he stood by previous comments that saw him sentenced to four years in prison for insulting the monarch.

The CNRP co-founder reacted strongly to the sentence handed down to him by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for saying that a letter by the King in April last year appealing to people to vote in the national elections was either a “forgery” or “made under duress”.

He took to Facebook on Friday to say that he was merely speaking the truth about the King.

“On the second charge that said I insulted the King, I was just speaking the truth about claims that the current King is a hostage taken by the dictator Hun Sen, who forces him to [rubber stamp] all his bad deeds."

“The King is so weak that [he] is useless for the nation and spoils the country’s interests. He only hides away happily in the Royal Palace or goes to China. He doesn’t care about the sufferings of the people and has never stepped out to protect victims,” Rainsy said.

Rainsy stood behind his words when contacted by The Post via email on Sunday.

“Because of my recent comments, I expect countless other similar government lawsuits to be filed against me. I hope that Hun Sen will be stupid enough to continue filing such ineffective and ridiculous lawsuits, which are actually golden opportunities for me to develop and publicise my criticisms against the current dictatorship."

“Contrary to the previous beloved and respected King Norodom Sihanouk, who did care and show his concern about the sufferings of the Cambodian people, the current King has never said anything about the injustices inflicted on them."

“He has always blindly endorsed the most controversial decisions made by the Hun Sen authorities. We hope to have a better king in the future. The great King Jayavarman VII’s motto was: ‘The sufferings of my people are my sufferings,’” Rainsy said.

Ministry of Justice spokesperson Chin Malin said Rainsy’s comments were a serious insult to the King.

He said it depended on the courts whether Rainsy would face a further charge of “Insulting the King” or if the comments could be added to the existing case.

Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said it was not for Rainsy to make such value judgements in public about the King, while he could achieve nothing with such a statement. Such words would only antagonise the King and royalists, and see Rainsy unnecessarily facing yet another charge of lese majeste.

“It would be wiser for him, once the leader of a big political party and a feared challenger to Prime Minister Hun Sen, to appreciate the King’s widely known predicament and [confidentially] offer him advice on ways to get out of it and effectively fulfil all his many constitutional functions and roles to serve his people,” he said.

Social analyst Meas Nee said while the Kingdom’s politicians, including Rainsy, often attacked each other, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party always won any resulting court case.

“Sam Rainsy, I think, knows that all of his jail terms added together are more than life-long. So [he has nothing to lose] by mocking the government and the courts,” he said.

He said Rainsy’s comments were also meant to draw a reaction from Prime Minister Hun Sen, who recently declared he would not do so. He said the two political rivals could not stay quiet for long when one attacked the other.

Rainsy was on Thursday sentenced to a total of eight years in prison on two charges, with security forces ordered to arrest and throw him in jail.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Ros Piseth handed down two guilty verdicts against him for “Inciting Military Personnel to Disobedience and Demoralising the Army” and “Insulting King Norodom Sihamoni”.

The latter charge stemmed from his comments regarding the letter.

Rainsy was sentenced to four years in prison with a fine of 10 million riel ($2,500) on each charge.