Arrest Ordered for Rainsy Facebook Manager

An arrest warrant was issued on Tuesday for an assistant of opposition leader Sam Rainsy who helps run his popular Facebook page and is allegedly responsible for producing the video in which now-jailed Senator Hong Sok Hour presents a forged treaty.

In August, Mr. Sok Hour was ordered jailed by Prime Minister Hun Sen, who complained of suffering a bout of insomnia after watching a video of the senator presenting a doctored treaty purporting to show a deal with Vietnam to dissolve the eastern border.

Mr. Rainsy, who is in self-imposed exile to avoid a warrant issued for his arrest last month, has been summoned to court on Friday for questioning over the video on provisional charges of being an accomplice to forgery and incitement.

Yet Mr. Rainsy has noted that he was not in Cambodia at the time the video was posted and says that it was his Facebook team that posted —and then deleted—it. Tuesday’s arrest warrant targets Sathya Sambath, one of the main members of his Facebook team.

“Video producer Sathya Sambath, born February 14, 1990…has been charged with conspiring to fake public documents, using fake documents and incitement to cause serious social chaos, committed on August 12 and 13, 2015,” the arrest warrant reads.

The warrant notes Mr. Sambath is believed to be on the run and “orders the public armed forces to investigate, arrest and bring the above person to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to comply with the law.”

Deputy municipal court prosecutor Meas Chanpiseth said that he had seen the warrant for Mr. Sambath, as well as a separate warrant for the arrest of Ung Chung Leang, the head of Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page.

“I have seen this arrest warrant and I am not working on this case anymore,” he said. “There are two people.”

Pen Putsaphea, one of the “special reporters” working for the nightly news program on Mr. Rainsy’s page, said that Mr. Sambath, Mr. Chung Leang and another assistant involved in the video’s production had fled to the Philippines on a tip they would face arrest.

“They are in the Philippines,” Mr. Putsaphea said. “We ask all the youth not to panic or be concerned, because this move is to break the spirit of the youth and if we are afraid of their threats it will be the end for the country and democracy won’t happen.”

Mr. Putsaphea said the third member of the group was Sambath David, an assistant to Mr. Sok Hour, but added that he had not seen an arrest warrant for him.

Chhay Sinarith, the deputy national police chief in charge of internal security, said he had not received any warrants yet.

“This case is in the hands of the investigating judge,” he said. “It seems it has been handed to the ministry or police, but we have not received it yet.”

Yet Lieutenant General Sinarith said police could put in a request to Interpol to find the wanted men in the Philippines if they can build a convincing case.

“We need to look into Interpol’s rules and policies,” Lt. Gen. Sinarith said. “If the case complies with Interpol’s policies, we will request it, because Interpol requires evidence and a lot of other things.”

Mr. Rainsy last month said the possibility of charges being levied against him for the video, which could carry a prison sentence of up to 17 years, was inappropriate as he had played no part in the production.

“Senator Hong Sok Hour posted his presentation / document on my Facebook page on August 12, 2015,” Mr. Rainsy said in an email on November 21.

“It was deleted less than 24 hours later, on August 13. From the fourth week of July to August 15, I was in the US, Europe or on a plane, and came back to Cambodia only on August 16,” he said.

“My Facebook page has 2 administrators, 2 editors and 2 moderators,” Mr. Rainsy added.

The opposition leader, who said he would be in Brussels on Monday, could not be reached by telephone on Tuesday and did not respond to an email requesting comment on the latest arrest warrants.

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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