A Cambodia court has ordered the confiscation and forced sale of property owned by the country’s former opposition leader Sam Rainsy to pay the plaintiffs in defamation judgements against him. A Phnom Penh court issued four orders in early November to sell off the former headquarters of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), a building owned Sam Rainsy and his wife, Tioulong Somura. The order came on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the banning of the CNRP by the Supreme Court, viewed as beholden to autocratic Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Sam Rainsy, 72, has lived in exile in France since 2015. In March, he was sentenced in absentia to 25 years for what supporters say was a politically motivated charge of attempting to overthrow the government. The proceeds from the property sale will go to the government and to Hun Sen, House Speaker Heng Samrin, and Interior Minister Sar Kheng — all of whom won defamation cases against Sam Rainsy that the opposition and outside observers view as politicized rulings. Sam Rainsy spoke with reporter Huot Vuthy of RFA’s Khmer Service about the forced sale of the property. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
RFA: Do you and your wife Tioulong Saumura own the land and the building housing the CNRP’s headquarters?
Sam Rainsy: The land that CNRP headquarters was built on belongs to me and my wife.
RFA: Did you give or rent it to the CNRP?
Sam Rainsy: I rented it to the CNRP. The headquarters was built after I bought the land, and after the construction was completed, I rented it to the CNRP. I only asked for a symbolic charge, so it was almost free.
RFA: What was your reaction when you found out that the property was going to be confiscated because you owe millions of riels to plaintiffs who won cases against you?
Sam Rainsy: This is a revenge staged by Hun Sen. He is taking revenge against me for all sorts of things. He is persecuting me in all respects, including politics, justice, and finance. He is taking revenge against me.
RFA: You say it’s about revenge. How do you feel about that?
Sam Rainsy: I want to add that I am not interested in it. I am not materialistic. Money, assets, houses, and land are not important. I don’t want any strings attached because if I don’t have any strings attached, then I have freedom. If I have plenty of assets when they threaten to confiscate them, then I will lose my freedom. I am not afraid of losing the few assets I have in Cambodia. It is good in a way because I lose all strings attached. Now I only have emotional attachment to the people and my native country. My emotional attachment can’t be broken.
RFA: One pundit said that the court's order to confiscate your property is tantamount to robbery. Will you file a counter lawsuit or fight it in another way?
Sam Rainsy: I am not interested in it. As I just stated, I am not materialistic. I won’t be pressured by that. This will not change my commitment to fight against a dictatorial regime which is being led by Hun Sen.
RFA: On the fourth anniversary of the banning of the CNRP, what will you do to revive the party?
Sam Rainsy: Hun Sen has been attacking me and the CNRP. He could only harm us from outside, but he couldn’t harm people’s souls. He killed the CNRP on paper, but the most important thing is that the CNRP is still alive and it remains in Cambodians’ hearts. This is a huge political gain that no one can destroy. One day when the situation changes, the CNRP will survive. The CNRP can be restarted at any time.
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