09/23/2010, 00.00
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Sam Rainsy, leader of opposition to Hun Sen, sentenced to 10 years in prison

Rainsy is in voluntary exile in France and the court sentencing will delay his return. According to the opposition party Cambodia is ceding its territory to Vietnam, offending Khmer nationalism. Sentence seen as a way to eliminate opposition.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Cambodian opposition leader, Sam Rainsy has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, guilty of manipulating documents and information to the public.

The government accuses Rainsy of altering topographic maps to show that Vietnam is taking over Cambodian territory. Rainsy's party say that Phnom Penh has given its powerful neighbour border territories.

Raisny was sentenced in absentia as he fled into exile in France, to escape the pressures and violence of the party of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

For years Rainsy has been trying to challenge the politics of Hun Sen, but has always lost in elections, accusing the Prime Minister’s party of abuse, manipulation and targeted killings. In recent weeks, he was planning his return, but the sentencing is likely to keep him from returning to Cambodia for several years.

The issue of borders between Vietnam and Cambodia is a very sensitive one for Cambodians who see Vietnam as the cause of their troubles in the recent past (war, Khmer Rouge, and now economic colonization).

The boundaries between the two countries have never been very accurate. In 2006 the two governments attempted to define them at the expense of certain groups of Cambodians, who lost their land on the borders. Rainsy has tried to encourage protest, by stirring Cambodian nationalism (see photo) and has been accused of manipulating maps.

Rainsy's party accuses the Phnom Penh government of using the judicial system to silence and eliminate the opposition.

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