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Cablegate: National Assembly Lifts Sam Rainsy's Immunity In

VZCZCXRO8980
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0847/01 3201114
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 161114Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1368
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000847

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KTIA KJUS CB
SUBJECT: NATIONAL ASSEMBLY LIFTS SAM RAINSY'S IMMUNITY IN
SENSITIVE BORDER CASE

Classified By: DCM THEODORE ALLEGRA FOR REASONS 1.4 (B, D)

1. (C) SUMMARY: The National Assembly voted November 16 to
lift opposition party leader Sam Rainsy's immunity to pursue
allegations that he destroyed state property and incited
national/racial hatred against the Vietnamese during an
October 25 incident on the Cambodia-Vietnam border. To
respond to official Vietnamese government claims of
interference in the border demarcation process, the Svay
Rieng province prosecutor may issue a summons to question
Rainsy about his role in removing temporary border markers.
It appears Rainsy did not directly remove the border markers
but is obscuring this fact while using the limelight to focus
on the RGC's border demarcation policy and its conflation
with sensitive land tenure issues. To show that the "new"
cooperative party of just a few months ago has jettisoned any
semblance of cooperation, Rainsy has thrown into the mix
charges that the CPP is unconcerned about the monarchy,
abusive of the constitution, and "subservient" to Vietnamese
"expansionist" policies. END SUMMARY.

The Whole Truth?
----------------

2. (C) Two eye-witnesses relayed accounts to us that Rainsy
did not remove any of six wooden stakes used to delineate a
square foundation for a planned cement border marker
separating Vietnam and Cambodia. Rather, Rainsy spoke
against the location of the marker when he joined farmers and
a group of about 50 others in the rice fields on Cambodia's
southeastern border with Vietnam, and immediately telephoned
Radio Free Asia to report his efforts. While Rainsy was on
the phone, local farmers reportedly removed the markers.
Rainsy and other party members held on to the markers before
throwing them to the ground. On November 1, Rainsy publicly
denied uprooting any border markers. Since then, however, he
has neither confirmed nor denied his own culpability while
defending the act of symbolically opposing encroachment. We
also learned that two of the six border markers were
transported to Phnom Penh and, as of November 13, were in the
possession of high-ranking SRP activists. Over the weekend,
some in SRP were considering having the marker posts
returned, cognizant of the fact the objects were state
property.

3. (SBU) In subsequent news accounts and radio interviews,
Rainsy and other SRP members have used the highly offensive
term "Yuon" to refer to the Vietnamese in an apparent effort
to stir up long-standing ethnic mistrust and anti-Vietnamese
resentment. Rainsy has volubly equated the situation with
Cambodia's Thai border dispute, also apparently in an effort
to ratchet up nationalist sentiment.

And Nothing but the Truth?
--------------------------

4. (SBU) Of the 87 Cambodian Peoples Party (CPP), Norodom
Ranariddh Party (NRP) and FUNCINPEC representatives present
at the National Assembly, all voted in favor of the motion.
Calling the vote to remove Rainsy's immunity
unconstitutional, 24 SRP members boycotted the National
Assembly meeting and marched nearby undisturbed to the
Independence Monument, before walking back to SRP
headquarters and holding a rally with about 100 SRP Phnom
Penh members in attendance. Party spokesman Yim Sovann
denounced the Hun Sen government, reciting the familiar
charges that the RGC was following Vietnamese orders and that
it did not care that King Father Sihanouk had expressed
concern about the issue. Rainsy himself did not attend the
proceedings; he is presently in Paris.

5. (SBU) The provincial prosecutor, through the Ministry of
Justice, must seek the lifting of any MP's immunity in order
to proceed with formal questioning. Based on two previous
cases this year -- SRP parliamentarians Mu Sochua and Ho Vann
-- the prosecutor is likely to issue a summons within the
next three-five days and the actual questioning will occur
within the next month. The summons may mention suspected
infractions of law. In anticipation of this summons, some
SRP insiders say that no lawyer can be found to defend Rainsy
or answer the prosecutor's questions, but admitted they came
to this conclusion after making only three phone calls.

6. (SBU) If the two allegations lead to formal charges,
Rainsy could face at least two counts under the 1992 UNTAC
Criminal Law: Article 52 on wrongful damage to property, and
Article 61 on incitement to provoke national or racial
hatred. Each count carries a penalty of jail time up to one
year.


PHNOM PENH 00000847 002 OF 002


Politics of Borders
-------------------

7. (SBU) In the meantime, Sam Rainsy from Paris and SRP
parliamentarian activists have begun a high-volume campaign
to put a spotlight on what appears to be a poorly implemented
border demarcation process with the Vietnamese. Farmers who
see border posts going up in their fields are not being told
what will happen to those with long-standing, customary use
of rice fields situated on the other side, and are not sure
if they will be compensated or continue the enjoyment of
their property once the borderline is fully implemented.

8. (SBU) Seeing disruptive activities interfering with a
painstakingly negotiated border agreement reached in 2005,
the government of Vietnam November 3 formally complained
about the incident in an exchange between Vietnamese Prime
Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and RGC Deputy Prime Minister Men
Sam An. The Vietnamese complaint carefully referred to the
uprooting of six temporary poles for Marker 185 and requested
that the RGC prevent a reoccurrence. The official inquiry,
which so far has spotlighted only Rainsy, is the first
official RGC response. (NOTE: SRP sources claim that the
local CPP District Governor is warning all other farmers not
to support Sam Rainsy. END NOTE.)

COMMENT
-------

9. (C) The Sam Rainsy Party has taken a disruptive approach
to a major problem and added toxic elements of racism and
anti-Vietnamese sentiment to make it worse. This time, some
involved took steps that by all accounts are illegal and
disruptive of a sensitive bilateral agreement. At this stage
at least, it is unclear whether the proud and unpredictable
Sam Rainsy will find a way out of the current self-made
tempest, or whether he will appeal to the international
community to justify his actions.
RODLEY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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