Rainsy handed eight-year prison sentence by Phnom Penh court

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‘Acting president’ of the Supreme Court-dissolved CNRP, Sam Rainsy,arrives at the Phnom Penh International Airport in 2015. Heng Chivoan

Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, 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.

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

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

“The court sentences Sam Rainsy, born March 10, 1949, to four years in prison and orders him to pay a fine of 10 million riel for “Inciting Military Personnel to Disobedience and Demoralising the Army”, under articles 471 and 472 of the Criminal Code. The offence was committed on December 5, 2017.

“[The court] orders security forces to arrest and send him to prison,” Judge Piseth said at the hearing.

The judge handed down the same punishment in the case of “Insulting King Norodom Sihamoni” and again ordered Rainsy’s arrest.

“It’s an honour to be sentenced to a heavy jail term under a dictatorship for conducting peaceful political activities. It proves that you are a real freedom fighter,” Rainsy told The Post via email on Thursday.

The incitement charge was brought against Rainsy by the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) after he made an appeal to the military on December 5, 2017.

“Please all armed forces, soldiers and police, don’t follow the orders of the dictator if he orders [you] to shoot at and kill innocent people, ” he wrote on Facebook.

To incur the charge of insulting the King, Rainsy alleged in June on Facebook that a letter released by the monarch calling on people to vote in last year’s national elections was “a forgery” and “made under duress”.

Ministry of National Defence spokesman Chhum Socheat declined to comment, saying it was up to the court to rule in legal cases.

Both Vong Pheakdey, a lawyer representing the RCAF, and Sam Sokong, Rainsy’s defence lawyer in the incitement case, could not be reached for comment.

After the hearing on April 22, Pheakdey called on the court to hand Rainsy the maximum possible punishment, while Sokong requested the charge be dropped, saying his client had only appealed to the military to not kill innocent people.

The four-year sentences Rainsy received on Thursday are just the latest of a number of jail terms handed down to the CNRP co-founder by the courts.

He was given a five-year jail term over forged Cambodian and Vietnamese border documents in 2016, and a 20-month sentence for defaming Hun Sen after he accused the prime minister of being responsible for the murder of political analyst Kem Ley, also in 2016.

Rainsy was convicted in absentia in December of that year and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on charges of being an accomplice in faking public documents and incitement.

This case originated from a video clip which was posted on Rainsy’s Facebook page back in August 2015.

In the more than 10-minute-long video clip, a then Sam Rainsy Party senator presented a “fake” version of a 1979 treaty that purported to dissolve the border between Cambodia and Vietnam.

In the other case, Rainsy took to Facebook once more to describe Ley’s murder as an act of “state-sponsored terrorism”, after the political analyst was shot dead at a Caltex petrol station in Phnom Penh in 2016.

Rainsy was convicted of defamation and incitement to cause chaos in society by Phnom Penh Municipal Court in March 2017.