PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The leader of a little-known Cambodian political party was arrested Friday for comments about the alleged encroachment on the country’s territory by Vietnam, the second arrest in two weeks related to the politically sensitive subject.
Suong Sophorn, the president of the Khmer Win Party, was arrested for inciting serious social unrest by distorting news about the border issue, said Gen. San Sok Seiha, a spokesman for the Phnom Penh Municipal Police.
He said Suong Sophorn traveled late last month to Cambodia’s eastern border with Vietnam and made false statements that territory had been lost to Vietnam, causing misunderstanding among the public.
He said Suong Sophorn was being held at police headquarters for questioning before being sent to Phnom Penh Municipal Court to be formally charged.
Suong Sophorn is a minor Cambodian politician whose newly formed Khmer Win Party contested the 2018 general election but failed to win any seats. The ruling Cambodian Peoples Party swept the election after a court dissolved the Cambodian National Rescue Party, which offered the only credible opposition challenge.
Rong Chhun, a prominent Cambodian labor union leader and longtime government critic, was arrested two weeks ago for making similar comments about the border and charged with incitement, for which he could face up to two years in prison. At least six of Rong Chhun’s supporters have been arrested in the past few days for protesting in a public area while demanding the labor leader’s release.
The issue of encroachment on Cambodian territory by Vietnam is a highly sensitive one with domestic political significance because of widespread historical antagonism toward the country’s larger neighbor to the east. Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government maintains close relations with Vietnam, leading his political foes to accuse him of failing to protect Cambodian land.