Main Cambodian opposition leader arrested, paper shuts as crackdown grows

Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha arrested: daughter
The Cambodia Daily ceases publication
Author

04 September, 2017

The government released a video on its Facebook page in which Mr 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 Mr Hun Sen.

Kem Sokha was elected as CNRP President in March 2017 to replace Sam Rainsy who stepped down in the previous month. The paper said it is unable to pay a $6.3 million tax bill the government claims the news outfit owes. "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 government said in a statement that it had a video clip and other evidence which pointed to "secret plans of conspiracy between Kem Sokha, others and foreigners to harm the Kingdom of Cambodia".

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the charges against Kem Sokha appeared to be politically motivated.

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.

Khieu Sopheak, an interior ministry spokesmen told reporters that Sokha's "on-the-spot arrest" was for treason, and that members of parliament had no immunity in such situations. If Kem Sokha is found guilty of any offence, it could allow the government to shut the party under a new law. Sam Rainsy remains overseas in self-imposed exile. Her statement did not directly address Hun Sen's accusations against the United States.

"This is the political strategy for democratic countries, that's what they do".

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CNRP gained strength as the opposition party to the ruling Cambodian People's Party in national elections in July 2013 and in municipal elections in June this year.

His surprise overnight detention raises the stakes as Hun Sen's political opponents, NGOs and the critical press are smothered by court cases and threats ahead of a crunch general election next year.

"After 24 years and 15 days, the Cambodian government has destroyed The Cambodia Daily, a special and singular part of Cambodia's free press", it said in a statement.

An independent newspaper, The Cambodia Daily, has been ordered to halt publishing by Monday because of a tax dispute, and at least 15 radio stations have been ordered to stop broadcasting programming from the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

On August 23, the government closed the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a USA -funded NGO, and ordered its expatriate staff out of the country.

The Daily says it has been operating at a loss since 2008 and that the government's figure is wildly inflated. In recent years, he has become one of China's closest regional allies, and made increasingly strident verbal attacks on the European Union, the United Nations, and the USA, as well as any worldwide organizations that criticized him for violations of human or political rights.


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