The Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Cambodia charged union leader Rong Chhun with incitement on Friday after Chhun allegedly falsely claimed that the government had ceded land to neighboring Vietnam.
Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, was arrested last week after allegedly falsely claiming on July 20 that land had been ceded to Vietnam. Chhun was previously arrested in 2005 over a border issue and again in 2014 after a protest. Nonprofit international broadcasting corporation Radio Free Asia (RFA) aired a story on July 31 that quoted Chhun as saying that Vietnamese soldiers invaded Cambodian territory. Chhun stated that Cambodian farmers had lost land to Vietnam in a recent border post demarcation, and that Vietnamese authorities had evicted Cambodian villagers.
As a result of this story, Chhun was arrested on Friday and charged with incitement under Article 465 of Cambodia’s Penal Code. Under this law, incitement is defined as the “act of direct inciting people to take up arms against part of the population.” Perpetrators can be punished with imprisonment between two and five years, as well as with a fine between 4 million and 10 million Riels ($1000-$2500).
On Monday, activist groups in Cambodia urged the government to release Chhun and drop the charges against him.