Opposition senator sentenced to 7 years in jail in Cambodia for posting doctored document on Facebook

A Cambodian supporter holds placards with portraits of opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour outside the Municipal Phnom Penh Court on Oct 26, 2016.
A Cambodian supporter holds placards with portraits of opposition Senator Hong Sok Hour outside the Municipal Phnom Penh Court on Oct 26, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - A Cambodian opposition senator was sentenced to seven years in jail on Monday (Nov 7) for posting a doctored document on social media about the contested border with neighbouring Vietnam.

Anti-Vietnamese sentiment is strong in parts of Cambodia and is often stirred up by the opposition to undermine the country's strongman ruler, Mr Hun Sen.

The courts, which critics say are easily bent to Mr Hun Sen's will, have hit back with charges and prosecutions accusing opposition members of whipping up dissent.

Senator Hong Sok Hour was arrested last year, days after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of committing treason by posting a doctored version of an old treaty about the border on opposition leader Sam Rainsy's Facebook page.

The version of the 36-year-old treaty he posted said the two countries would "dissolve the borderline" - an inflammatory concept to Cambodians.

A court on Monday found the senator guilty of "falsifying public documents, using fake public documents, incitement causing unrest to national security," Judge Ros Piseth said, sentencing him to seven years in prison.

His lawyers could not be reached immediately for comment.

Mr Rainsy, who is in exile in France, was also charged separately in the case.

Last month, the same court sentenced an outspoken opposition lawmaker who has criticised Hun Sen's government over its handling of the border issue to two-and-a-half years in jail for posting allegedly fake maps on his Facebook page.

The two countries have shared a testy relationship since Vietnam's troops invaded to oust Cambodia's genocidal Khmer Rouge regime in 1979 before withdrawing a decade later.

Mr Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for three decades, is highly sensitive to criticism that he is too soft on Vietnam over the disputed areas of the shared border.

Rights groups have accused Mr Hun Sen's administration of arresting scores of critics and tying up other opponents in legal cases before national elections in 2018.

The opposition's deputy leader, Mr Kem Sokha, has been holed up for months in his office, sleeping on a makeshift bed, to avoid arrest by authorities.

He was sentenced to five months in jail in September for refusing to appear in court over an alleged sex scandal prosecution that the opposition say is politically motivated.