Authorities in Cambodia on Saturday arrested an opposition senator after Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of treason for posting a disputed diplomatic document online relating to the country's border with neighboring Vietnam.
Police arrested Hong Sok Hour of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) early Saturday from the residence of a lawmaker belonging to the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), a CNRP leader told RFA's Khmer Service.
Hong Sok Hour was brought in handcuffs in a black SUV and herded into a Phnom Penh municipal police office by a large contingent of police amid protests by his supporters, according to RFA reporters at the scene. He was then taken to a court to face charges.
Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Khieu Sopheak was quoted as saying that the senator was held in a raid at CNRP lawmaker Yun Tharo's residence, where Hong Sok Hour was hiding.
The senator had earlier told RFA that he would surrender to the authorities on Monday.
He had posted comments on social media claiming that an article of the 1979 Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Treaty was meant to dismantle, rather than simply define, the border between the two countries.
He had also posted online two copies of the 36-year-old border agreement with Vietnam containing the article's disputed wording.
During a graduation speech in the capital Phnom Penh on Thursday, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen accused Hong Sok Hour of posting a “fake” copy of the treaty and called for his arrest, ordering the city’s international airport to block him from leaving the country.
Hong Sok Hour, who holds citizenship in both Cambodia and France, had told RFA that after hearing Hun Sen calling for his arrest, he decided that he would surrender on Monday with encouragement from the embassy in order to explain his actions.
“I did not fake the disputed Article 4 of the treaty,” Hong Sok Hour had said.
“I got the document from the Internet a long time ago, probably seven to eight years ago, and put it up on Facebook without knowing if it was accurate,” he said, adding that he is ready to correct the disputed article online if it is proven false.
Eng Chhai Eang, a senior CNRP official, told RFA the arrest occurred at 6:05 a.m. His party had appointed two lawyers to handle the case.
He said that opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is abroad, telephoned Hun Sen over the issue but "no solution was found."
Eng Chhai Eang said that the French Embassy in Phnom Penh had assured Hong Sok Hour's family that it would provide legal protection to the senator.
Senators usually have immunity from prosecution during their terms in office, but Khieu Sopheak told Agence France-Presse that Hong Sok Hour would be stripped of that privilege because "he committed his offence red-handed".
"His information (posted on Facebook) caused chaos in the country. It is an act of treason," the spokesman said.
The arrest was the latest in a series of government actions against Hun Sen's political opponents.
In an ongoing dispute with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP)—a merged political grouping that includes the SRP and is led by Sam Rainsy—contends that Vietnam has been encroaching upon Cambodian territory at various spots along the 1,228-kilometer (763-mile) border.
It has also accused the government of ceding land to Vietnam, which invaded and occupied Cambodia in 1979, by using incorrect maps to determine border demarcations.
The border issues led to clashes at the end of June between activists led by CNRP members and Vietnamese villagers as the Cambodians inspected a road that the Vietnamese had built in a disputed area of Cambodia’s Svay Rieng province.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Vuthy Huot and Sok Ry Sum. Written in English by Parameswaran Ponnudurai.