Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Cambodian court has issued an arrest warrant against the opposition leader Sam Rainsy, on the basis of an allegation of defamation that dates back seven years. The order issued yesterday afternoon by the judges immediately raised a wave of protests in the country; critics say it has no legal basis but would only be on "political reasons".
These days the leader of the National Rescue Party is in Japan and South Korea for a business trip; sources close to the ruling party state that he, on returning home, will be immediately arrested because he has already lost his parliamentary immunity, a result of a previous conviction.
The charges relate to a case in 2008 when Rainsy accused Foreign Minister Hor Namhong of directing a prison at the time of the Khmer Rouge regime; for this he received a two-year sentence and a fine of about 2 thousand dollars.
In recent days, Prime Minister Hun Sen had threatened legal action against the opposition leader, over some comments made during the stage of his trip to Tokyo, when he expressed doubts over the real intentions of the ruling party to proceed with the general elections scheduled in 2016 and 2017.
Activists and human rights groups in Cambodia say that the decision to arrest the opposition leader of is an "act perpetrated by politicians who do not want to use peaceful means to settle disputes" and will eventually undermine the country's stability.
Sam Rainsy, the Cambodian opposition leader, has lived for years in exile in France; in 2010 he was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for manipulating documents and information to the public. He has always denied any wrongdoing, claiming that Prime Minister Hun Sen (Cambodia's strongman) used the judicial system to eliminate opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party. On 12 July 2013, the government pardoned Rainsy, thus allowing him to participate in the elections, won again by the prime minister and his party, the Cambodian People's Party, which has been in power for 30 years.