A Cambodian court on Thursday sentenced opposition leader Sam Rainsy [party profile; JURIST news archive] in absentia to 10 years in prison following his conviction on charges of forging and disseminating [JURIST report] a false map of the Cambodia-Vietnam border on his political party's website. The map [document, PDF] posted on the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) [party website] website shows an area along the border of the two countries in which Rainsy alleges the Vietnamese government tampered with four border posts, placing them further into Cambodian territory than UN, US Army, Google and French colonial maps specify. Rainsy faced a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison for falsifying documents and an additional three years for posting those documents publicly. Rainsy's supporters contend that his conviction was politically motivated [AFP report] in order to prevent him from participating in the next national election, while government authorities have denied any political motivation. Rainsy and his political party continue to maintain that the current Cambodian government has allowed Vietnam to encroach on Cambodian territory.
In January, Rainsy and two villagers were convicted [RFA report; JURIST report] in absentia on separate charges of inciting racial discrimination and intentionally destroying posts demarcating the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called [press release] the closed-door trial of Sam Rainsy and the two villagers a "farce," saying the ruling demonstrates the government's control over the country's judiciary. In 2006, Rainsy received a royal pardon for a 2005 defamation conviction. He is currently self-exiled in France, but remains actively involved [press release] in Cambodian affairs.