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US Denounces ‘Manufactured’ Case as 27-year Prison Sentence for Cambodian Opposition Leader

Kem Sokha has also been barred from standing or voting in July's election

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UNITED STATES/CAMBODIA: Kem Sokha, a prominent member of the opposition in Cambodia, was convicted guilty of treason and given a sentence of 27 years in prison in a case that was widely criticized for being politically motivated. In 2017, the former leader of the now-defunct opposition group Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was arrested and accused of working with the US to get rid of Cambodia’s authoritarian leader Hun Sen, who has been in power for a long time. Kem Sokha has also been barred from standing or voting in July’s election.

W. Patrick Murphy, the US ambassador, said that the claims, which Kem Sokha denied, were “made-up conspiracy theories.” Rights groups have strongly criticized the decision, which they say is a warning meant to silence opposition figures months before national elections are set to take place in July.

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In 2017, during a crackdown on the media and critical voices, Kem Sokha was detained when hundreds of police raided his house in the middle of the night. Since then, he has been locked up, had his freedom limited, and been told he can’t take part in politics.

Shortly after he was arrested, his party, the CNRP, was dissolved. This got rid of the main opposition group before the next year’s elections. 2018 saw the winning of all 125 seats in the National Assembly by the governing party.

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Newspapers and radio stations have been shut down, laws that limit civil liberties have been enacted, and opposition leaders and members of civil society have been found guilty in mass trials under Hun Sen’s rule.

Hun Sen told Voice of Democracy (VOD), one of the few independent media outlets in the country, to shut down earlier this month. He said that the outlet had attacked him and his son and hurt the “dignity and image” of the Cambodian government.

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According to Amnesty International, at least 39 members of the political opposition are being detained in Cambodian jails on false accusations.

Also Read: Cambodia’s UN-backed Tribunal Rejects Genocide Appeal of Last Surviving Leader

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