Published: Mon, September 04, 2017
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Cambodia Arrests Opposition Leader, Accusing Him of Treason

Cambodia Arrests Opposition Leader, Accusing Him of Treason

A former Khmer Rouge officer who defected, Hun Sen has become one of the world's longest-serving leaders through years of wily political manoeuvring and little tolerance of dissent.

Hun Sen was quoted as telling a group of garment factory workers that the "third party" behind the plot was the same as that behind a 1973 coup that is widely believed to have had US support.

Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker and chair of independent group Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, which includes members of the CNRP, said the arrest showed that Prime Minister Hun Sen was "so afraid of what might happen in a genuine vote, he won't allow for competition at all".

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated significantly in recent weeks.

In August, the radio stations Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, and the independent Voice of Democracy were forced off the air.

The Daily was founded by American journalist Bernard Krisher in 1993 and Hun Sen this year berated some of its journalists as "servants of foreigners". It accuses the paper of failing to pay taxes.

Monovithya Kem, the leader's daughter, tweeted just after midnight on Sunday that Kem Sokha and his bodyguards had been "taken away by 100-200 police" after they raided his Phnom Penh home without a warrant.

Interior Ministry spokesman General Khieu Sopheak the next step would a trial.

Hun Sen, 65, has increased his rhetoric against the United States, expelling a USA pro-democracy group and on Sunday accusing Washington of conspiring with Kem Sokha. "The act of treason by conspiring with foreign country, betraying his own nation, requires immediate arrest", Xinhua news quoted the Prime Minister as saying. The statement gave no details but called the actions "treason".

According to a subsequent government statement, Sokha's "treason" can be seen in a video clip published online by Cambodian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which is based in Australia. "This is a clear crime and there's no need to make further investigation because he has confessed already".

Mu Sochua, a vice-president of the opposition party, insisted that the charges had been fabricated. She told The Associated Press the arrest violated the constitution but added, "This government has not cared about the law in quite some time".

The government released a video on its Facebook page in which Kem Sokha appeared to tell a group of supporters about a strategy to win power which he said had the support of "the Americans" rather than an immediate plot to topple Hun Sen. Sen's son Hun Manith repeated the claim on Twitter.

Kem Sokha, 64, has led the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) since his predecessor resigned in February, saying he feared a government plan to shut it down. He now lives in exile.

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