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Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: Arrest of Cambodian Opposition Leader

Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor: Arrest of Cambodian Opposition Leader

The case appears to be based on a four-year-old video of Mr. Kem Sokha, in which he says in a speech that he received advice from the United States on how to build an opposition movement.

After "24 years and 15 days of journalistic activities" the newspaper said it will publish its last print edition on September 4, but will keep its website with all past articles online from a server located in a foreign country for the foreseeable future.

Last week the USA expressed "deep concern" over the state of Cambodia's democracy after the government there ordered out an American NGO and pursued a crackdown on independent media.

Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested in the capital Phnom Penh early on Sunday and the government of veteran Prime Minister Hun Sen said he was accused of treason.

"After they close down all the independent newspapers and radio stations, no one will be able to print true information for the upcoming election".

Kem Monovitthya, one of the politician's daughters, said on Facebook that her father had been handcuffed and taken away after hundreds of policemen raided his home.

Gen. Khieu Sopheak, interior spokesman, dismissed the CNRP's comments, claiming the government had evidence to support their assertion that Sokha had committed treason and that Sokha's actions risked returning the country to "civil war".

During Hun Sen's rule Cambodia emerged from the devastating Khmer Rouge genocide to enjoy record years of economic growth of above 7 percent, but disaffection has been increasing and he only just won the 2013 election against a unified opposition.

According to a government statement, Sokha was accused of "treason" based on a years-old video clip circulated online in which Sokha said he was encouraged to enter politics during a meeting with US representatives. Sokha is facing charges of treason and espionage under article 443 of the country's Criminal Code, a government statement said. "This is a clear crime and there's no need to make further investigation because he has confessed already".

"When we tax them, they said we shut down press freedom", Hun Sen was quoted as saying.

Mu Sochua, a vice president of the opposition party, insisted the charges were fabricated. She told The Associated Press the arrest violated the constitution but added, "This government has not cared about the law in quite some time".

Hun Sen, 65, is determined to extend his three-decade rule and dismantle the burgeoning popularity of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who have gained from public anger over inequality and corruption.

The party called for his release and urged the global community to intervene.

John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said the arrest was "an extremely disturbing development and a setback for democracy in Cambodia".

"We can't allow any group to destroy the peace we hold in our hands by being the puppets of foreigners", Hun Sen said at the opening of a new mosque in Kompong Cham province.


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