Prime Minister Hun Sen threatens to dissolve opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen today threatened to dissolve the opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) if it continues to back its detained leader Kem Sokha.

Head of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha was arrested on 3 September in a swoop by hundreds of security forces at his home in the Cambodian capital

On 5 September, a Cambodian court charged the opposition leader with treason and espionage over an alleged conspiracy with unnamed foreigners to win power with the support of the United States.

Kem Sokha’s arrest marked an escalation in a crackdown on Hun Sen’s critics ahead of an election next year in which he could face the toughest electoral challenge in more than three decades in power.

Western countries have criticised Kem Sokha’s arrest and his detention on trumped up charges of treason. The CNRP has said the charges were nonsense and that it would continue to support its Kem Sokah and not change its leader.

Addressing a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, PM Hun Sen said, “If the political party continues to blockade and defend this traitor, it means the party is also a traitor, so there is no time to let this party operate in Cambodia’s democratic process anymore.”

Cambodian Parliament today voted to allow the prosecution of Kem Sokha on treason charges.

CNRP boycotted the parliamentary vote, but it passed easily because Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has a majority. There was none to oppose the vote.

The evidence presented against Kem Sokha so far is a video recorded in 2013 in which he discusses a strategy to win power with the help of unspecified Americans. His lawyers have dismissed the evidence as nonsense and said he was only discussing election strategy.

Opposition parliamentarians went to the prison where Kem Sokha is being held to demand his release. They said his arrest was illegal because he should have been protected by his parliamentary immunity.

PM Hun Sen, a 65-year-old former Khmer Rouge commander, has ruled Cambodia for more than 30 years and said last week that he planned to stay in power for another decade.

Addressing the 36th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council today in Geneva, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he is “seriously concerned at the recent arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha, which appears to have been undertaken without respect for due process guarantees or his parliamentary immunity.”

High Commissioner Zeid also expressed concerns “that numerous public statements by the Prime Minister and high-ranking officials about Kem Sokha’s alleged guilt violate the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial.”

Strongly urging the Government to guarantee full political and civil rights, and media freedoms ahead of next year’s general election, he called on the Cambodian Government “to guarantee the independence of the courts; ensure due process, including the right to appeal, in all administrative measures; and to respect the rights to freedom of association and expression.”

However, China, Hun Sen’s main ally, has said it supports Cambodia’s efforts to preserve its own security. Hun Sen was due to visit Beijing on Monday.

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