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Cambodia opposition leader removed from parliament post

Cambodia's ruling party has ousted outspoken government critic and National Assembly Vice President Kem Sokha. The move follows violence against opposition members. Sokha's party called the vote "unacceptable."

Kem Sokha was dismissed from position 68-0 in an unscheduled vote on Friday, despite the boycott by his 55 colleagues from the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Representatives of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) accuse Sokha of breaking a political deal where the CNRP consented not to disparage the governing faction.

"Kem Sokha was elected by an absolute majority of the lawmakers. He was removed in the same way. The door he entered is the door [through which] he leaves now," said Cambodian People's Party spokesman and lawmaker Sok Ehsan.

The opposition leader was not in the house at the time of the vote.

Spokesperson for the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, said on Friday that the commission was "concerned about the worsening climate for opposition politicians and activists in Cambodia."

"We stress that the right to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression belongs to all individuals, regardless of their political or other opinion," Shamdasani said in a statement, adding that it is the government's responsibility "to ensure that individuals are not targeted for their political affiliation or for expressing dissenting views."

CNRP senators beaten

Relations between the two largest political forces

deteriorated earlier this year

when the opposition accused neighboring Vietnam of land encroachment.

The ruling CPP, led by Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, maintains good relations with Hanoi.

The ruling party voted against Sokha after hundreds of government supporters signed a petition for his removal. The pro-government protesters also gathered on Monday to call for Sokha to leave.

During the rally, unknown attackers severely beat two opposition members of parliament (MPs) as they were trying to leave parliament. The regime condemned the violence and denied that it was the work of their supporters.

Sen calls for action

The CNRP party decried the Thursday vote as "unacceptable," saying it was breaking the law and democratic principles.

"The political situation is getting more tense and unstable. There have been of threats the country will return to war, beatings of MPs and this removal," said CNRP parliamentarian Ou Chanrith.

Recently, Prime Minister Hun Sen used his public appearances to urge action against government critics. Such speeches are usually followed by arrests.

Earlier this year, Sen spoke out against a CNRP senator Hong Sok Hour, who was subsequently arrested for posting on Facebook the allegedly fake border agreement with Vietnam.

Hour now faces us to 17 years in prison.

Sen has also compared CNRP to

Khmer Rouge

and said that opposition victory would lead to civil war.

dj/kms (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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