Cambodia's Supreme Court dissolves main opposition party

Pauline Gross
November 17, 2017

An exiled leader of Cambodia's political opposition said Thursday the global community should cut ties with Prime Minister Hun Sen's government after the court-ordered dissolution of the only party challenging his three-decade grip on power.

He resigned as party leader in February after CPP lawmakers moved to amend the Law on Political Parties to dissolve any political party led by someone convicted of a crime.

He called for governments to drop their recognition of the prime minister and "delegitimize the Hun Sen regime".

In a speech last week to garment workers, Hun Sen said he was so confident the court would rule against the CNRP that he would offer anyone 100-1 odds if they were willing to bet it would not happen.

Human rights monitors argue that the Cambodian government led by former Khmer Rouge commander Hun Sen demanded the dissolution of the party because it risked an electoral defeat in the 2018 election. Republican Rep. Steve Chabot, co-chairman of the House Cambodia caucus, said Cambodian elections next year would be a "sham".

Judges in Cambodia abolished the country's main opposition party on Thursday in a landmark decision for the fragile Southeast Asian democracy.

During Hun Sen's rule since 1985, Cambodia has been transformed from a failed state to a lower middle-income country with growth of around seven percent a year.

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Current CNRP leader Kem Sokha was charged last month with treason for allegedly working with the United States to topple Hun Sen.

"It shows that Hun Sen will never stop if no one is stopping him", said Kem Monovithya, the daughter of Kem Sokha and also a party official. American influence has been waning for years as Cambodia edges closer to China, which has supported Hun Sen's efforts to "protect national security and stability".

The lawyers screened videos of Sokha that documented him admitting to having received assistance from the USA in planning his political career and also played audio recordings from Radio Free Asia that they said proved there was a link between the U.S. and the opposition in planning a colour revolution. He could face up to 30 years in prison. US-linked groups like Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and the National Democratic Institute have also been forced to disband or leave the country.

He called on the USA president to reprimand his own officials and the USA embassy in Phnom Penh, which Hun Sen accused of supporting the opposition.

More than half the CNRP's members of parliament had already fled Cambodia, fearing detention in a crackdown on Hun Sen's critics, civil rights groups and independent media that began a year ago.

"The Supreme Court has hammered the final nail in the coffin for Cambodian democracy", said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian opposition MP.

Other reports by GizPress

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