Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Exiled Cambodian opposition leader given jail term

Cambodian opposition party leader Sam Rainsy

Sam Rainsy was sentenced in his absence as he is living in self-imposed exile

Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been sentenced to 10 years in jail after being found guilty of altering public documents and disinformation.

The government accused Mr Rainsy of manipulating a map to show that Vietnam had encroached on Cambodia's territory.

His party has accused the Cambodian government of ceding territory to its larger and more powerful neighbour.

Mr Rainsy was sentenced in his absence as he has been living in self-imposed exile overseas for the past year.

Unmarked border

The BBC's Guy Delauney in Phnom Penh says the only surprise was that Mr Rainsy's prison sentence was not longer.

He could have faced up to 18 years in prison, our correspondent says.

Cambodia and Vietnam officially began demarcating their contentious border in September 2006, in a bid to end decades of territorial disputes.

The 1,270km (790-mile) border has remained essentially unmarked and vague since French colonial times, with stone markers and boundary flags having disappeared, while trees once lining it were cut down.

In January, Mr Rainsy was given a two-year jail term for encouraging villagers to uproot border markings, in protest at Cambodia's government.

The Sam Rainsy Party has accused the government of using the judicial system to silence the opposition. But the government insists that the courts are independent - and simply enforcing the law.

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