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Cambodian Supreme Court dissolves opposition party

November 16, 2017

The high court verdict followed the arrest of Cambodia's opposition leader Kem Sokha in early September. Critics fear for democracy's future in the small Southeast Asian country led by Hu Sen for 30 years.

Cambodia - Constitutional court dissolves opposition party CNRP
Image: Reuters/S. Pring

Cambodia's Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously ordered the dissolution of the country's main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and banned more than 100 CNRP members from political office for five years.

"The Supreme Court has decided to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party and ban 118 individuals ... from doing political activities for five years starting from the day of this verdict announcement," a judge said.

The authoritarian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen had accused the CNRP of planning a coup in the Southeast Asian country.

The CNRP, which did not send any lawyers to the trial, had refuted the accusation as politically motivated. The nine-member court said the refusal to send lawyers was effectively an admission of guilt.

Hun Sen said the verdict would not stop a planned general election from taking place in 2018.

Read more: Cambodia: New Asian tiger thrives amid autocracy

Cambodia - Kem Sokha
CNRP leader Kem Sokha had been arrested in early September on treason chargesImage: Reuters/S. Pring

Democratic setback

The decision is the latest setback for the CNRP, which had been hoping to challenge the country's longtime prime minister in the 2018 election.

CNRP leader Kem Sokha was arrested September 3 on charges of conspiring with the United States in an attempt to topple the government. Sokha and the United States have denied the accusation.

Critics said the move was an attempt by the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to crackdown against opposition and civil society groups.

Hun Sen's 30-year rule in Cambodia has seen the hollowing out of the country's nominally democratic institutions and the rule of law.

Read more: Opposition leader Kem Sokha arrested for treason in Cambodia

amp/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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