Cambodian Opposition Dismisses 'Treason' Claims Against Leader, Condemns Arrest

Cambodian Opposition Dismisses 'Treason' Claims Against Leader, Condemns Arrest

While speaking to a group of garment workers on Sunday, Hun Sen, head of the Cambodian People's Party and prime minister since 1985, claimed Sokha had confessed to plotting regime change with the United States. Kem Sokha has a long, distinguished, and internationally recognized commitment to human rights and peaceful democracy. "And after 24 years and 15 days, the Cambodian government has destroyed The Cambodia Daily, a special and singular of part Cambodia's free press", the newspaper said in a statement Sunday.

According to a subsequent government statement, Sokha's "treason" can be seen in a video clip published online by Cambodian Broadcasting Network (CBN), which is based in Australia.

The country's tax department announced in early August that the Cambodia Daily, an independent English-language newspaper, owes some $6 million in unpaid tax from 2007 to 2016, and ordered the publisher to pay in full by September 4.

The government said the video and other evidence indicated "secret plans of a conspiracy between Kem Sokha. and foreigners to harm the Kingdom of Cambodia". If Kem Sokha is found guilty of any offence, it could allow the government to shut the party under a new law.

The CNRP in a statement on Sunday called for Sokha's immediate release and condemned the arrest of a lawmaker in violation of his constitutional immunity.

Tension has been growing in the Southeast Asian country in the run-up to a general election next year in which the opposition party has been expected to challenge Hun Sen's rule of more than three decades.

He urged other nations to put pressure on Mr. Hun Sen.

"These measures undercut Cambodia's progress in recent decades and raise serious questions about the government's ability to organise credible national elections in 2018 which produce an outcome that enjoys democratic legitimacy", said the USA embassy. Sam Rainsy remains overseas in self-imposed exile.

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

The arrest of Kem Sokha comes after the government cracked down on NGOs and critical media.

The newspaper said Monday's edition would be its last and blamed "extra-legal threats by the government to close the Daily, freeze its accounts and prosecute the new owner" for the closure.

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

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. USA non-profit the National Democratic Institute and at least one other US charity were expelled from the country.

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