Senator Gets Seven Years For Facebook Border Post

Opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour was sentenced to seven years in prison on Monday for forgery and incitement after presenting a border treaty on Facebook that the CNRP says merely contained a mistranslation.

As part of a provocative CNRP campaign last year aiming to expose Vietnamese incursions into Cambodian territory, Mr. Sok Hour appears in a video posted online in August presenting a doctored copy of a 1979 border treaty between Cambodia and Vietnam that the senator later said he had downloaded from Google years before.

Opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour is escorted into the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh in June. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour is escorted into the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh in June. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Presiding Judge Ros Piseth said Mr. Sok Hour was guilty of incitement, forging a public document and using a forged document, handing him a seven-year prison sentence. Mr. Sok Hour was absent from the sentencing—as were his four lawyers.

In their place, several CNRP lawmakers were at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, including Son Chhay, who railed against the verdict.

“This sentencing showed the weakness of the court system in Cambodia. The courts are the representatives of justice but they do not provide justice,” Mr. Chhay said. “This was a political case, and a political case solves nothing except a political resolution.”

The treaty in question includes the word “dissolve” as part of an agreement between the two countries over their shared border—rather than “redefine,” as the original treaty says, according to CNRP President Sam Rainsy.

“It was this inaccurate wording—which is likely the result of a first translation from Khmer to English by somebody and, subsequently, a second translation from English back to Khmer by somebody who apparently had not seen the original Khmer version—that prompted Prime Minister Hun Sen to accuse Senator Hong Sok Hour of ‘treason’ and to order his arrest,” Mr. Rainsy said in a statement.

Mr. Sok Hour’s conviction follows a guilty verdict last month against opposition lawmaker Um Sam An, who was sentenced to more than 2 years in prison over Facebook posts critical of the government’s demarcation of the frontier with Vietnam. Mr. Sam An repeatedly took to Facebook to accuse the government of using the wrong maps—ignoring warnings that the comments could land him in prison—and was arrested and charged with inciting social disorder and inciting discrimination.

Both Mr. Sok Hour and Mr. Sam An were convicted despite never having their parliamentary immunity from prosecution stripped, making the decisions unconstitutional, according to the CNRP.

The government initially appeared to feel the pressure from last year’s CNRP campaign over the Vietnam border, sending terse diplomatic missives to Hanoi about alleged incursions. But Mr. Hun Sen quickly changed tack, ordering the arrest of Mr. Sok Hour and announcing that anyone who accused the government of using the wrong border maps would face legal action.

Both cases are widely seen as being politically motivated, and part of a broader campaign by the ruling party to muzzle dissent facing a united opposition and an increasingly informed electorate that is active online and less reliant on CPP-friendly television.

Mr. Rainsy is currently exiled from Cambodia, where he faces a two-year prison sentence and various lawsuits. His deputy, Kem Sokha, is facing five months in prison if the Supreme Court upholds a conviction related to a “prostitution” case.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the latest verdict, as with the others, was made at the discretion of the court and according to the law.

“The problem with the opposition is that they never agree with the government,” Mr. Eysan said. “It is the culture of the opposition party to always be like that. Whatever we do does not satisfy them.”

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