Cambodian opposition party faces threat of being dissolved

By Reuters/Prak Chan Thul   October 1, 2017 | 06:20 pm PT
Cambodian opposition party faces threat of being dissolved
Cambodia's opposition leader and President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha. Photo by Reuters/File Photo
'If the leader of the CNRP is guilty of crimes, the party is dissolved.'

A royalist political party aligned with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Sunday it was filing a lawsuit to demand the dissolution of Cambodia's main opposition party after its leader was charged with treason.

The arrest of Kem Sokha on Sept. 3 has brought condemnation from Western countries while his Cambodia National Reconstruction Party (CNRP) says it is a ploy by Hun Sen to win an election next year and keep his three-decade hold on power.

Cambodia has been transformed under Hun Sen's rule from a failed state after a genocide by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s but disaffection has grown and the opposition increased its share of the vote in June local elections.

The royalist Funcinpec party said in a statement it would request that the Supreme Court dissolve the CNRP on the grounds that it had violated political party laws because of Kem Sokha's acts.

"They can't distance themselves from this criminal act by claiming that it's only the criminal act of an individual, Kem Sokha," the statement said.

One of Kem Sokha's deputies, Mu Sochua, accused the ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP) of standing behind the move.

"This is most dangerous for democracy," she told Reuters. "This is a strategy to intimidate us."

Ruling party spokesman Sok Eysan denied any suggestion that the CPP had encouraged Funcinpec and another small party to file lawsuits

"It's their right to file lawsuits," he said. "If the leader of the CNRP is guilty of crimes, the party is dissolved, there wouldn't need to be any lawsuits from anyone."

The government had previously said the opposition party would be dissolved if it did not drop Kem Sokha as its leader although he has not yet been tried on the accusations of plotting with U.S. support.

The opposition has dismissed the evidence presented against him as nonsense.

Funcinpec, led by Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was once one of Cambodia's biggest parties and won the first multiparty election in 1993. But it was outmaneuvered by Hun Sen and eventually split.

It won no seats in Cambodia's parliament in the last election in 2013.

King Norodom Sihamoni, Prince Norodom's half-brother, has show no desire for involvement in party politics in the constitutional monarchy. Their late father, King Norodom Sihanouk, was a wily political operator over decades both on and off the throne.

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