Repression in cambodia: opposition leader arrested

The government claims he committed treason. Now promising opposition leader Kem Sokha faces a 15-year prison sentence.

Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha at a Buddhist ceremony in March Photo: ap

Cambodia’s opposition leader Kem Sokha has been in custody in a provincial prison since Sunday. The 64-year-old head of the opposition National Salvation Party of Cambodia (CNRP) has plotted to overthrow the government together with the U.S., Prime Minister Hun Sen claims. Cambodia’s generals applauded the prime minister in addresses of surrender.

The pretext was provided by a video of a speech Kem Sokha gave in Australia in 2013, in which the biochemistry graduate allegedly said that he was being advised by U.S. professors in his strategic planning.

The political background to the arrest is the parliamentary election scheduled for July 2018. The popular CNRP could threaten the power of Hun Sen, who has ruled for over 30 years. Hun Sen wants to prevent this, for example with the new party law, which, with the help of the compliant judiciary, allows him to dissolve parties that have members who have been convicted of criminal offenses.

End for regime-critical newspaper

Since then, Hun Sen has taken massive action against critics. Opposition members are harassed, and the Cambodia Daily, a newspaper critical of the regime, was forced to cease publication today, September 4, after 24 years because of alleged tax debts.

At the same time, Hun Sen is coddling the military. In March, the country’s approximately 3,000 generals were joined by another 84 tinsel holders.

At the end of August, Hun Sen’s several thousand-strong bodyguard also received a personnel boost. Members of the guard had beaten up two CNRP deputies in 2015 and were sentenced to a short prison term and subsequently promoted as a reward.

The verdict for the opposition leader may already be in. "Kem Sokha has betrayed Cambodia," Brigadier General Hun Manith, a son of Hun Sen, told Fresh News, the government mouthpiece.

Kim Santepheap, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, clarified to Fresh News: "Betraying the nation in collaboration with foreigners is punishable by 15 to 30 years in prison." While the CNRP is still calling on its members to remain calm, it may soon find itself unable to do so.

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