Kem Sokha: Cambodian opposition leader sentenced to 27-years



Kem Sokha sentenced to 27 years
Image: Cindy Liu/Reuters

A famous opposition leader, Kem Sokha has been sentenced to 27 years in house arrest. Many believe that the trial is politically motivated. The former CNRP leader and disbanded party member is also disqualified from running or voting in the next election.

He has denied allegations that he plotted with foreign forces to undermine Hun Sen’s administration. His legal team has said their client intends to appeal his treason verdict.

On Friday, the court’s decision was roundly criticized by rights organizations and Western nations. Kem Sokha was first detained in 2017 on the basis of a video from 2013. In the video, he claimed to have received assistance from pro-democracy organizations in the United States.

The US embassy called those accusations of a “fabricated conspiracy” and a “miscarriage of justice”

Concerned about “the foundation of the allegations and the conduct of the trial,” the UN Human Rights Commissioner has also demanded Kem Sokha’s release. Hun Sen, the current leader of Cambodia, has been in power continuously since 1985, making him one of the world’s longest-serving autocrats.

Many assume he will fight for reelection in July’s national election. Some speculate that he may cede control to his oldest son, Hun Manet.

A steady decline of democracy

On Friday, human rights organizations drew attention to the steady decline of democracy in Cambodia over the last several years. “It was evident from the outset that the allegations against Kem Sokha were nothing but a politically motivated scheme by Prime Minister Hun Sen to sideline Cambodia’s key opposition leader and dismantle the country’s democratic system,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

By locking up Kem Sokha, they are destroying his political party and eliminating any chance of a fair election in July.

The outcome was anticipated, according to observers. There is a widespread belief in Cambodia that Prime Minister Hun Sen has complete influence over the country’s judicial system.

Former human rights activist and leader of the Cambodian National Rescue Party, Kem Sokha, has stepped down. In previous elections, it saw a surge in support that put it on the verge of toppling Hun Sen and his party.

There was supposed to be an election in 2018, but his party was outlawed. A large number of its top officials have been arrested, tried, or driven into hiding. Critical media outlets of Hun Sen have also been shut down.

Hun Sen, the leader of Cambodia, shut down the country’s sole independent news organization, Voice of Democracy, last month because it had published an article criticizing his son and damaging to the government’s image.


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