Cambodia: Opposition leader arrested, newspaper shut by govt

Cambodia Arrests Opposition Leader, Accusing Him of Treason

Opposition leader leader Kem Sokha was arrested in a police raid on his home early on Sunday after Hun Sen accused him of treason with the backing of the United States.

The government said in a statement that it had a video clip and other evidence pointing to a secret plan with foreigners to harm the Kingdom of Cambodia, which it said amounted to treason.

Hun Sen, 65, is determined to extend his three-decade rule and dismantle the burgeoning popularity of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who have gained from public anger over inequality and corruption.

Kem Monovitthya, one of the politician's daughters, said on Facebook that her father had been handcuffed and taken away after hundreds of policemen raided his home. "We can see that the arrest of Kem Sokha was wrong legally and violated his rights as a lawmaker with parliamentary immunity", she said.

In 2013, the opposition parties made surprise gains, dealing Hun Sen his first ever electoral scare.

"The arrest of Kem Sokha is a disastrous setback for Cambodia's human rights situation", said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

"We have been a burr in Hun Sen's side for the entire time that we have been operating", said The Cambodia Daily's American editor-in-chief, Jodie DeJonge.

His Cambodian People's Party won local elections in June, but the opposition also did well, increasing expectations of a close contest in the general election due in 2018.

The party called for his release and urged the worldwide community to intervene.

Sokha could face up to 30 years in prison if found guilty. The government also ordered the expulsion of the National Democratic Institute, a pro-democracy, nonprofit organization tied to the Democratic Party of the United States.

Nauert also highlighted recent steps by the Cambodian government against independent media and civil society, saying they "raise serious questions about the government's ability to organize credible national elections in 2018 which produce an outcome that enjoys democratic legitimacy".

The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen is ratcheting up pressure on political opponents, critics, the media, and non-governmental organizations ahead of national elections next year.

"CNRP shall be dissolved if it keeps defending Kem Sokha and keeps saying that this country is a dictatorship", Hun Sen warned during a meeting with 4,000 workers on Sunday.

The English-language paper had been given a deadline of one month to pay $6.3 million for years of back taxes, which the publication disputed and described as "astronomical".

Hun Sen has attacked his political foes with amendments to election and party laws, judicial maneuvers, arbitrary law enforcement, and hefty tax bills.

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.

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