The treason trial against Cambodia’s opposition leader has resumed, two years after it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Kem Sokha’s party was seen as a political threat to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
- After the arrest of Kem Sokha, his party was disbanded, with the government accusing him of plotting a coup.
- Hun Sen has held power for 36 years and plans to remain in office until 2028, when one of his sons will succeed him.
Mr. Kem was the head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) when he was arrested in September 2017 based on an old video that showed him telling a seminar on how to get advice from US pro-democracy groups.
If found guilty, he could face up to 30 years in prison.
The allegation was seen as part of a political strategy by Prime Minister Hun Sen to remove all opposition ahead of the 2018 general election, which his party won unanimously, despite allegations that neither elections were free. Nor were they fair.
And the popular CNRP was seen as a real electoral threat to Mr. Hun’s Cambodian People’s Party.
The Supreme Court dissolved the party following Mr Kem’s arrest, after the government was accused of plotting a coup.
Mr Hun, who has held power for 36 years, has said he intends to remain in office until 2028 and has backed one of his sons to be his successor.
Tension between opposition leaders
Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said in an emailed statement: “Resuming Mr. Chem’s trial in Phnom Penh after a nearly two-year hiatus does not change the fact that it is bogus, politically motivated.” The charges should never have been brought against him in the first place.”
Mr Robertson said the “whole charioteer” was about preventing anyone from using the ballot box to usurp Mr Hun’s leadership, which was “particularly important as commune-level elections will be held across the country in mid-2022.” are about to happen”.
As Mr Kem left his home for court in the capital Phnom Penh on Wednesday, he told reporters he hoped the court would drop the charges for national reconciliation.
The trial originally started in January 2020, but was postponed after a few days due to the spread of COVID-19.
Mr Kem’s ordeal has virtually escalated to the point of severing his ties with Cambodia National Rescue Party co-founder Sam Rainsy, who himself is in exile to escape criminal punishment he says is politically motivated. Were.
Mr. Sam was the de facto leader of the party while Mr. Kem was in jail before being released on bail.
There is tension between supporters of the two opposition leaders as some feel Mr Kem faced severe pressure from Mr Hun’s government while Mr Sam was in exile.
The legal actions against Mr. Chem were widely seen as encouraging a split between the two.
Mr. Hun is a skilled political orator, and has a record of using divide-and-conquer tactics against his enemies.