Cambodia’s government is moving to dissolve the main opposition party.
An interior ministry spokesman says the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court with the goal of dissolving the Cambodia National Rescue Party. The ruling party claims CNRP has been involved in a plot to topple the government.
Half of the opposition lawmakers have already fled the country after their leader Kem Sokha was arrested last month and charged with treason. Sokha’s arrest was carried out amid a massive government crackdown against independent news outlets and human rights groups.
The Cambodia Daily, one of the last independent newspapers in the country, was closed after it received a large, overdue tax bill its publishers claim is bogus.
Observers say the crackdown is an apparent attempt by Prime Minister Hun Sen to shut down dissenting voices ahead of next year’s election with the aim of extending his three-decade-old grip on power.
Hun Sen’s government was nearly toppled in the last national election in 2013, and support is growing for the opposition, especially among younger Cambodians.
“I don’t intend to be captured,” Mu Sochua, an opposition lawmaker, told the French News Agency from Bangkok, before heading to Europe. “I don’t intend to sit and wait for a kangaroo court to give us a trial that is a total joke.”
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, said the world is ignoring to Hun Sen’s crackdown. “The international community obligated itself to protect human rights and democracy in Cambodia when they signed the Paris Peace Accords,” Robertson told Reuters, “but now they are looking the other way as that dream dies.”
Robertson said “Prime Minister Hun Sen is effectively putting an end to Cambodian democracy.”