Sam Rainsy, Cambodia’s primary opposition leader, received a sentence of 10 years imprisonment for “altering public documents and disinformation.” Rainsy had protested against Hun Sen’s decision to demarcate its border with Vietnam. He alleged that Phnom Penh had ceded territory to its northern neighbor, and even encouraged a village to uproot border markings. While this is obviously a sensitive issue for the regime, 10 years does seem like quite a long time for what is basically sedition. Of course, the Hun Sen regime claims the courts are independent and merely applying the law. But it also appears that, with China’s investment and aid, Hun Sen no longer feels compelled to moderate his authoritarian instincts.
Category Archives: Sam Rainsy
One theme I regularly discuss on this blog is the constitutionalization or legalization of undemocratic rule in Southeast Asia. As despots have known for centuries, legal formalities can shroud anti-democratic and grossly illiberal tactics. In the Wall Street Journal, Carlyle Thayer professor of politics at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, recently discussed how Hun Sen‘s Cambodian People’s Party is beginning to rely upon courts to undermine political opponents rather than military coups (such as his 1997 coup against Ranariddh).
According to Thayer:
the country is once again on the brink of another political upheaval. This time, the battle lines are being drawn in courts rather than in the streets, but the effect will be the same—the slow but sure consolidation of authoritarian rule.
CPP-influenced courts regularly dismiss lawsuits brought against the government while convicting opposition deputies of defamation.
The immediate concern is (as always) Sam Rainsy. The CPP-dominated legislature recently stripped opposition leader Sam Rainsy of his parliamentary immunity, clearing the way for a provincial court to charge him with willfully destroying property (based on an odd incident at the Vietnamese border last month).