An arrest warrant has been issued for the leader of Cambodia’s main opposition party after he ignored a provincial court order to appear for questioning, a government spokesman said on Thursday.
Sam Rainsy failed to appear for questioning on Monday about an Oct. 25 incident in which demarcation posts were uprooted along Cambodia’s border with Vietnam.
A Phnom Penh court issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday, although it was not announced publicly.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan confirmed on Thursday that the warrant had been issued for Rainsy, who leads the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP).
In an e-mail from France, Rainsy said he would not appear in court because the case against him was politically motivated.
“The court in Cambodia is just a political tool for the ruling party to crack down on the opposition,” he said. “I will let this politically subservient court prosecute me in absentia because its verdict is known in advance.”
Phay insisted the judges made their decisions free of political interference and said the warrant was issued only because Rainsy missed his court date.
“No matter who you are you have to appear in court, that’s the law,” Phay said.
Rights groups have accused the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) of using the courts to crack down on opposition.
On Nov. 16, the CPP-dominated government voted to strip Rainsy of his immunity for the second time last year.
Rainsy faces charges of racial incitement and destruction of property for his alleged role in uprooting six border posts, which local farmers claimed were placed on their land.
Vietnam lodged an official complaint over the incident.
The countries are in the process of demarcating their 1,270m-long border, but farmers on the Cambodian side have claimed they are losing land as Vietnam encroaches on Cambodian territory. A group of villagers from Svay Rieng Province took their concerns to Rainsy, who is a fierce critic of Vietnam’s influence in Cambodian affairs.
Vietnam is a growing investor in Cambodia and the countries signed a memorandum of understanding at a forum in Ho Chi Minh City last Saturday, which will guide Vietnamese investments that officials said could top US$6 billion.
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