A judge at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has issued nine arrest warrants against senior members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), branding their pledge to return to the country from exile a coup attempt.
The warrants target party founder Sam Rainsy; his wife, Tioulong Saumura; former CNRP vice presidents Mu Sochua and Eng Chhai Eang; and former members of parliament Long Ry, Ou Chanrith, Ho Vann, Men Sothavrin and Nuth Rumdoul, the court’s spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday’s night.
The nine politicians were charged in absentia on Sept. 19 with “attempting a coup d’etat” under a pretext to return from exile on Nov. 9 by appealing to the country’s soldiers with promises of money in exchange for their support, the court said.
The warrants were followed by criminal charges against three CNRP activists, Sim Seangleng, Yem Vandet and Mien La, in Tbong Khmum province on Friday for alleged conspiracy to overthrow the government, the Tbong Khmum provincial court said.
If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to 10 years prison, the court said.
Contacted by email on Friday, the CNRP’s former vice president Sochua referred to a previously issued statement from the party, which rejected the coup d’etat charges as “baseless and dangerous” and called the courts “government-controlled.”
“CNRP also resolutely rejects the notion that the return from exile of the CNRP leaders can be treated as intention to commit armed rebellion as such charges have no relation neither to reality nor to legality,” the statement said. “We have no arms.”
“We don’t believe in coups,” it added.
The CNRP said the party leaders were coming back to Cambodia because they “believe in the power of dialogue” and that their mission is peaceful and reconciliatory.
The party appealed to the army not to shoot at them when they arrive in Cambodia on Nov. 9.
“We have been calling on the security forces to remain loyal to the defense of the Constitution and the borders of our nation. We have been appealing to the security forces not to shoot at any Cambodian, ever,” the statement said.
However, on Saturday, ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan said he didn’t believe the CNRP’s words of peace and reconciliation.
“Believe it or not that it’s a coup, just look at the way [Rainsy] has already appealed to the army to rebel against the government in exchange for money,” Eysan said via Telegram message. “Now the fundraising is already underway.”