Rainsy Convicted for ‘Ceding Territory’ to Indigenous People

2 min read
Sam Rainsy meets with Kok Ksor, of the Montagnard Foundation Inc, in the U.S. in September 2018, months after a video was released of a similar meeting between them in 2013. (Sam Rainsy’s Facebook page)
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Exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a meeting he had with an indigenous minority leader in 2013 pledging to uphold the rights of Cambodia’s indigenous people.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court tried Rainsy in absentia on the charge of giving land to a foreign entity and was set to deliver a verdict on September 13 but delayed the session. The court found Rainsy guilty of the charges on Wednesday and sentenced him to a life sentence and banned him for politics.

The case dates back to a 2013 video that was released by an anonymous Facebook account in 2018 showing Rainsy meeting with Kok Ksor in the U.S. Ksor, who died in 2019, was ethnic Jarai leader and headed the Montagnard Foundation.

The group advocates for the rights of the Degar, an umbrella term used to describe indigenous populations in the central highlands of Vietnam.

Apart from pledging to uphold the rights of indigenous minorities if his party was in power, Rainsy also signed a document with three articles from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples dealing with self-determination rights for minorities, but said he did not promise to give away any land. 

However, the government and Fresh News latched on to the video and accused Rainsy of ceding territory to a foreign entity. This narrative made its way into court during the trial on August 11.

“It was lucky that CNRP did not win the election. Otherwise, we will have a bitter history,” said court prosecutor Plang Sophal. “It will be a pain to the Cambodian people if a leader hands over territory to a foreigner.”

Rainsy already faces multiple convictions and Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday said three-generations of the opposition leader’s family have been traitors to the country.

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