Two assistants to opposition leader Sam Rainsy, both facing charges of forgery and incitement in Cambodia, and an assistant to now-imprisoned Senator Hong Sok Hour have been granted asylum in France, according to a senior CNRP lawmaker.
At least two of the three, who have all been involved in the opposition’s social media outreach, are facing up to 17 years in prison after being charged for their involvement in crimes allegedly committed by Mr. Sok Hour when he presented a fake border treaty in a video posted to Facebook.
From left, Ung Chung Leang, Sambath David and Sathya Sambath arrive in Paris last week, in a photograph posted to Mr. Chung Leang’s Facebook page.“They asked for asylum from UNHCR [U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees] in the Philippines and they have been accepted in France,” opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua said on Thursday, declining to say whether their asylum in France was temporary or permanent.
Ms. Sochua referred further questions to Mr. Rainsy, who is himself living in self-imposed exile in France to avoid a two-year prison sentence. He declined to comment.
Arrest warrants for Sathya Sambath, who was accused of producing the video, and Ung Chung Leang, the manager of Mr. Rainsy’s Facebook page, were issued late last year after the two were charged with forging a public document, using forged public documents and incitement to commit a felony.
The two men—together with Sambath David, an assistant to Mr. Sok Hour—fled to the Philippines at the time on a tip that they would soon face arrest.
On September 6, they headed for France, according to a post on Mr. Chung Leang’s Facebook account.
Mr. Sambath, Mr. Chung Leang and Mr. David declined to comment on the case, as did UNHCR officials in Southeast Asia and France.
Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Mr. Sok Hour’s arrest in August last year after the video, in which he presents a forged treaty to dissolve the Cambodian-Vietnamese border, was posted to the Facebook page of Mr. Rainsy, who has also been charged as an accomplice in the case.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Y Rin said Investigating Judge Kor Vandy was still working on the case.
He declined to say whether an arrest warrant had been issued for Mr. David.
“For right now, Investigating Judge Kor Vandy is investigating and processing whether the group is involved with Hong Sok Hour’s case,” he said.
“So the investigation is still ongoing.”
Mr. Sok Hour, who has been repeatedly denied bail due to what the court says is his continued threat to social order, has denied the forgery charges. Instead, he has said that he found the doctored border treaty through a simple Google search.
Mr. Rainsy is set to go on trial in November over the case. He has denied any involvement in the production, and in November seemingly laid blame for the incident on his Facebook team and Mr. Sok Hour.
“Senator Hong Sok Hour posted his presentation/document on my Facebook page on August 12, 2015,” he said in an email at the time, adding that he was then in the U.S. and Europe.
“My Facebook page has 2 administrators, 2 editors and 2 moderators.”
The three assistants are among numerous government critics—or their relatives—to recently flee the country looking for asylum amid rising political tension.
In July, two activist brothers received temporary asylum in Thailand amid fear for their safety after political analyst Kem Ley was assassinated earlier in the month.
On August 29, the analyst’s wife, Bou Rachana, her four sons and members of her extended family also left the country for Thailand, where they are pursuing permanent asylum in a third country.
Soeung Hai, a dissident former monk also wanted for arrest, has been living in Sweden since February, claiming that the U.N. helped him secure political asylum there.
As a matter of policy, the UNHCR does not comment on individual asylum cases.
retka@cambodiadaily.com, odom@cambodiadaily.com
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