PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – An outspoken Cambodian opposition lawmaker faces up to 5 years in prison after he was charged Tuesday, April 12, with “inciting revolt” by criticizing government border maps, officials said.
Um Sam An, a dual Cambodian-US national, was arrested late Sunday, April 9, in Siem Reap province after returning from overseas.
He was a prominent campaigner against the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen for using contested maps as a guideline to demarcate the border with Vietnam, accusing it of conceding land to the neighboring country.
Prosecutors at a Phnom Penh court ordered his detention pending trial.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told Agence France-Presse the lawmaker used the border issue to incite people to revolt against the government.
“He also incited racism between Cambodia and Vietnam. We cannot accept this,” he added.
Under Cambodia’s criminal code he faces up to 5 years in jail if convicted.
Strongman Hun Sen has repeatedly warned that anyone accusing the government of using fake maps faces arrest.
Anti-Vietnamese sentiment is strong in parts of Cambodia and is often used by the opposition as a touchstone issue to rally support.
Sam Sokong, a lawyer for Um Sam An, confirmed the charges with Agence France-Presse through a text message.
“His expression did not damage society,” he added.
Cambodia’s opposition party has long been critical of Phnom Penh’s cosy ties with Hanoi and routinely accuses Vietnam of taking Cambodian territory along the 1,270-kilometre (787-mile) border, which is not fully demarcated.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) denounced the arrest of Um Sam An as a “serious violation of the principle of parliamentary immunity”.
Parliament will discuss the case later Tuesday.
An opposition senator was also arrested last year after Hun Sen accused him of committing treason by posting a “doctored” version of an old treaty about the Vietnamese border on Facebook.
He is still in detention as his trial has been delayed.
Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for more than 3 decades, is highly sensitive to criticism that he is too soft on Vietnam over the disputed areas of the shared border. – Rappler.com