Published: Mon, September 04, 2017
Worldwide | By Sean Reid

Cambodian opposition leader arrested

Cambodian opposition leader arrested

Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, did not address the allegations against Washington, but expressed "grave concern" over the arrest, saying Kem Sokha "has a long, distinguished, and internationally recognized commitment to human rights and peaceful democracy".

"It's our livelihood, our mission and our passion to put out the news, but it's a small part of what's going on in Cambodia today", said Jodie DeJonge, The Daily's editor in chief.

Last month, Cambodia expelled the Washington-based National Democratic Institute and ordered local radio stations to stop broadcasting reports from the USA government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

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 arrest was confirmed by Kem Sokha's daughter, Monovithya Kem, who tweeted that her father and the bodyguards were taken away by the police without a warrant after they raided his home.

"As a result of extra-legal threats by the government to close the Daily, freeze its accounts and prosecute the new owner for the actions of the previous owner, The Bernard Krisher Jimusho unable to operate The Cambodia Daily newspaper and it will cease publication as of September 4, 2017", the newspaper said in a statement.

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.

The charges against Sokha carry a prison sentence of 15 to 30 years.

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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.

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. "This is a clear crime and there's no need to make further investigation because he has confessed already".

"We don't know his condition, whether he's safe", she said.

Mu Sochua, a vice president of the opposition party, insisted the charges were fabricated.

A former Khmer Rouge officer who defected, Hun Sen has become one of the world's longest-serving leaders through years of wily political manoeuvring and little tolerance of dissent.

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

Analysts say Hun Sen, an authoritarian leader who has held a tight grip on Cambodia for more than three decades, has grown increasingly concerned about steady opposition gains at the ballot box over the last decade, including local elections in June. He now lives in exile.

John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Sunday that Sokha's arrest was a "disastrous setback" for Cambodian rights.

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