Cambodia begins prosecuting more than 100 opponents for treason
Bangkok, Nov 26 (efe-epa).- More than 100 politicians and activists opposed to the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen began Thursday their trials for treason and other accusations allegedly committed before the judicial dissolution in 2017 of the main opposition party.
Monovithya Kem, spokesman for the outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), called the process a “circus” and called on Twitter for “the withdrawal of false charges against the Cambodian opposition.”
The macro-trial began in the morning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, where more than 100 defendants have been summoned, including Cambodian-American human rights activist and lawyer Theary who appeared in court. However, 50 of those are exiles and could be tried in absentia.
Among them Mu Sochua, former vice president of the CNRP and currently in Malaysia, said the trial in the Phnom Penh court is as a “spectacle” with a “verdict already decided by the Hun Sen regime,” which could include penalties of up to 12 years in prison.
The special rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, said in a Wednesday statement that her “serious concern” about the mass trial that “appears to be politically motivated, without a clear legal basis and that constitutes a serious violation of judicial rights.”
“This is not an isolated episode. The civic and democratic space in Cambodia has continued to shrink and there is little evidence of political rapprochement and reconciliation,” Smith said, demanding a “fair trial” for the accused.
In November 2017, the Supreme Court outlawed the Cambodia National Rescue Party and disqualified more than 100 of its leaders for allegedly conspiring to overthrow the government, an accusation rejected by the opposition.
The outlawing of the opposition led to an offensive against the independent press, which led to the closure of the daily Cambodia Daily and several radio stations, and the expulsion of a US NGO dedicated to promoting democracy.
This campaign was launched months after the ruling Cambodian People’s Party lost positions in the municipal elections and before the 2018 general elections, where Hun Sen’s party won all the legislators. EFE-EPA