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Cablegate: As Noose Tightens, Outspoken Sam Rainsy to Send

VZCZCXRO0066
OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHPF #0949/01 3520912
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 180912Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1483
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS PRIORITY 0127
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS PRIORITY 0731
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 1708

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000949

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, DRL, P, D

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KJUS PREL CB
SUBJECT: AS NOOSE TIGHTENS, OUTSPOKEN SAM RAINSY TO SEND
LAWYER TO ANSWER SUMMONS

REF: PHNOM PENH 847

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR INTERNET DISSEMINATION.

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The lawyer for opposition party leader Sam
Rainsy said that Rainsy will not return from France to answer
a summons from the Svay Rieng province investigating judge in
connection with a case related to a Cambodia-Vietnam border
demarcation incident on October 25. The summons states
Rainsy is to be questioned on charges of breaking temporary
border posts and inciting racial/national hatred. Rainsy has
lashed out at the Svay Rieng "kangaroo court" and continues
to attempt to assume full responsibility for the alleged
destruction of temporary border markers during a publicity
stunt to highlight the sensitive border demarcation process.
Cambodian authorities are responding to official Vietnamese
claims of interference in the border's demarcation. While
the Sam Rainsy Party is content to exploit their own brand of
anti-Vietnamese nationalism in counterpoint to the Hun Sen
government's virulent anti-Thai sentiments, there is no
apparent exit strategy from the court case for Rainsy, whom
Hun Sen condemned for supporting the Thai, adding that Rainsy
would have to serve out at least two thirds of any jail
sentence handed down. END SUMMARY.

Handling of the Ongoing Investigation
-------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Attorney Chou Chhun Ngy told us December 18 that
Rainsy has asked the lawyer to go in his place to answer the
summons for questioning on the two counts. The summons
explicitly states that if Rainsy does not appear on December
28, an arrest warrant will be issued for Rainsy's official
escort to the questioning by Svay Rieng investigating judge
Long Kesphyrum. Rainsy's parliamentary immunity was lifted
on November 16 to accommodate this legal process (Ref A).
Rainsy's lawyer also will travel to Svay Rieng early next
week to submit a list of witnesses he wants the investigating
judge to interview. (NOTE: We understand that one of these
witnesses will assert that Rainsy himself did not pull out
any of the rough wooden stakes marking an underground cement
border marker, although Rainsy can clearly be seen in YouTube
videos cheering on those who did. END NOTE.) On the charge
of racial incitement, Rainsy's use of the virulent racial
slur "Yuon" against the "invading" Vietnamese will be more
difficult to address, as evidenced by the silence by most
Rainsy activists on this point or the rationale given that
the slur has long been in use.

Rainsy's Logic of Martyrdom
---------------------------

3. (SBU) Rainsy early on denied that he was involved in the
October 25 removal of temporary border markers (four of which
are currently being held in local Svay Rieng farmers' houses
and two of which were moved by SRP activists to Phnom Penh,
according to SRP sources), or alternatively argued that the
rough-hewn, tree-branch stakes were of no financial value and
meaningless. The undisturbed cement post in the ground
underneath these stakes is indeed the official physical basis
for the bilateral border marker, as confirmed by Senior
Minister Var Kim Hong, Chairman of the RGC Joint Border
Committee (JBC). Since mid-November, however, Rainsy has
claimed to be the symbolic defender against "encroachment"
and -- despite the facts -- now claims that he himself
removed the stakes. This should be considered an act in
defense of the nation and the peoples' land, Rainsy has
argued, not a crime.

SRP Joins in the Game
---------------------

4. (SBU) With the exception of two others, all Sam Rainsy
parliamentarians descended on the Svay Rieng border marker
site on December 14 to view the situation, to reaffirm that
the cement pole in the ground (about 10 inches in diameter)
remained there, and to reiterate the SRP's concern for the
eastern border even as the RGC focused on the western border
with Thailand. Although there was a scuffle with about 100
police attempting to block the way, the event came off "quite
okay", according to SRP MP Son Chhay, who said the police
leadership intervened at least twice to instruct
rank-and-file security forces not to harm anyone and
parliamentarians were able to do their duty to inspect the
site.


PHNOM PENH 00000949 002 OF 002


5. (SBU) Son Chhay said that the SRP has now called for an
explanation of the border demarcation process in the National
Assembly and that Deputy Prime Minister Sok An will appear
before a full session of parliament on December 24 to answer
a long list of questions regarding the border posed by SRP.

A Few Hitches in the SRP Plan
-----------------------------

6. (SBU) Son Chhay noted to Pol/Econ Chief that he believed
that the RGC Land Law applied to all land adjacent to the
demarcated border, which could remain private land. However,
post recently obtained an RGC document dated 2000 that
indicates there is a "border area" under the exclusive
administration of the JBC and which could not be subject to
private ownership. (NOTE: Thus allowing for negotiation and
demarcation with neighboring countries. END NOTE.) Son
Chhay also correctly pointed out that there is no law or
regulation in Cambodia stating how far from the border people
had the right to own private land. However, the JBC
reportedly uses the limit of one kilometer to define the
"border area", according to Var Kim Hong. Given this
definition, all of the "encroached" land being defended by
the SRP would be well within the RGC's purview and Rainsy
would have no legal defense in the position that it was
halting trespass on private land.

COMMENT:
-------

7. (SBU) With a number of other witnesses being called by
the Svay Rieng border incident case, we can expect the
provincial court to increase its public relations on the
Rainsy case, now that the summons has been issued. The next
major decision point will be with the onset of a trial,
assuming the investigating judge finds credence in the two
charges. Putting aside the charge of "breaking" the border
posts (destruction of public property), Rainsy may not so
easily defend against inciting discrimination based on race
or nationality. The potential minimum jail time is at least
one year for either charge, even if Rainsy is found to be
only an accomplice. Some in SRP claim the government will
seek the much stiffer penalty of five years. Rainsy is doing
nothing to calm the waters form his Paris venue, where he
lashes out at the government and attracts opposition funding.
If Hun Sen sticks by his recent fit of pique not to pardon
Rainsy until Rainsy has served two thirds of his sentence,
the opposition may well have to readjust its leadership
calibrations.
ALLEGRA

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