Cambodian Opposition Senator Faces 17 Years in Prison

By Associated Press 17 August 2015

PHNOM PENH — A Cambodian opposition senator was indicted Sunday on three charges that carry penalties of up to 17 years in prison for Facebook comments that criticized a 36-year-old border agreement with Vietnam.

The senator, Hong Sok Hour, was arrested Saturday after Prime Minister Hun Sen had accused him two days earlier of treason, prompting the senator to go into hiding and police to launch a manhunt.

Defense attorney Sam Sok Kong said the senator would be held in pre-trial detention after being charged Sunday on three counts: falsifying public documents, using fake documents and inciting chaos. The charges carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison, up to 5 years and up to 2 years, respectively.

Hong Sok Hour has denied the charges against him. He says he did not write the comments himself but downloaded them from a website and posted them to his Facebook page, thinking the information was correct, the lawyer said.

The arrest was the latest in a string of attacks on Hun Sen’s political opponents. In recent weeks, Hun Sen has used his public speeches to deliver what amounts to arrest orders, which are generally carried out quickly.

The prime minister accused Hong Sok Hour of posting material about the 1979 border agreement that “amounts to treason.” Hun Sen was foreign minister at that time in a government installed by a Vietnamese occupation force that invaded Cambodia to oust the murderous Khmer Rouge regime.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has been seeking political benefit by accusing Vietnam of encroaching on Cambodian soil—a politically sensitive topic that has ramped up tensions at the border.

Hun Sen has been in power for almost three decades, and while Cambodia is formally democratic, his government is authoritarian and known for intimidating opponents.