Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Cambodia opposition leader loses final appeal

via CAAI

PHNOM PENH, Tuesday 1 March 2011 (AFP) - Cambodia's exiled opposition leader on Tuesday lost a final appeal against a two-year jail term imposed in absentia -- a sentence his lawyer denounced as politically motivated.

Cambodia's Supreme Court upheld Sam Rainsy's conviction early last year for inciting racial discrimination and intentionally damaging wooden posts denoting the boundary with Vietnam in an incident in October 2009.

"The decision by the Supreme Court is not fair and it is not justice for my client. I always tell the court that this is a politically-motivated case, not a penal case," Sam Rainsy's lawyer Choung Chou Ngy told AFP.

"I have not yet consulted with my client about our next step," he added.

The outspoken opposition politician, who lives in France, had already lost his first appeal against the sentence.

He now faces a total of 12 years in prison if he returns to Cambodia, after a court late last year also sentenced him to 10 years in jail for publishing a false map of the border with Vietnam in a separate case.

The Sam Rainsy party and rights groups have in the past said the convictions were an attempt to keep Sam Rainsy from taking part in Cambodia's national election in 2013.

He is the main rival to Prime Minister Hun Sen, 59, who has ruled Cambodia since 1985 and has vowed to remain in power until he is 90 years old.

Sam Rainsy has repeatedly accused Vietnam of encroaching on Cambodian territory.

No formal map has ever been agreed between the two countries.

The neighbouring nations officially began demarcating their 1,270-kilometre (790-mile) border in September 2006 after decades of territorial disputes stemming from French colonial times.

Hun Sen's government has for its part been embroiled in a bitter border dispute with Thailand which has claimed lives on both sides.

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