Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha facing large jail sentence in his treason trial

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A treason trial against Cambodia’s opposition leader has resumed, two years after it was adjourned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kem was head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) when he was arrested in September 2017 on the basis of an old video showing him telling a seminar about receiving advice from US pro-democracy groups.

If convicted, he could be sentenced for up to 30 years’ imprisonment.

The charge was seen as part of a political strategy by Prime Minister Hun Sen to sweep away all opposition before the 2018 general election, which his party won unanimously, despite accusations the polls were neither free nor fair.

And the popular CNRP was seen as a genuine electoral threat to Mr Hun’s Cambodian People’s Party.

Mr Kem’s arrest was swiftly followed by the dissolution of the party by the Supreme Court, after the government accused it of plotting a coup.

Mr Hun, who has held power for 36 years, has said he intends to stay in office until 2028 and has endorsed one of his sons to succeed him.

Mr Sam was the de facto leader of the party while Mr Kem was in prison before his release on bail.

There is tension between supporters of the two opposition leaders because some feel Mr Kem had to face severe pressure from Mr Hun’s government while Mr Sam was free in exile.

The legal actions against Mr Kem were widely seen as encouraging a split between the two.

 

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