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Cambodian court orders arrest of opposition leader Sam Rainsy

A Cambodian court has issued an arrest warrant for opposition chief Sam Rainsy on charges of defamation. He and the premier have been locked in a bitter political conflict that threatens to destabilize the country.

Rainsy's arrest orders were issued in connection with a 2008 defamation and incitement case brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong. The opposition leader had accused Namhong of being a former Khmer Rouge member.

It is however unclear if Rainsy will be arrested as he enjoys immunity due to his status as a lawmaker. The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted and sentenced him to two years in prison in 2013, but the verdict was never implemented.

On Friday, the Municipal Court ordered police to "arrest and bring the convict Sam Rainsy to serve the (two-year defamation) sentence in jail."

Rainsy, who returned from exile ahead of 2013 elections after receiving royal pardon, claims the convictions are politically motivated.

The opposition leader is currently in South Korea, according to local media reports.

The arrest warrant follows increased political tension between Rainsy's Cambodia National Rescue Party and Premier Hun Sen's Canmbodian People's Party (CPP).

On Thursday, the country's premier blasted Rainsy for urging him to resign from him his post, which he has held for more than three decades.

The bitter political rivalry between Rainsy and Hun has led to renewed violence on the streets of Cambodia. In October, two opposition politicians were beaten outside the parliament by CPP-aligned protesters.

shs/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)

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