Cambodian Opposition Leader Kem Sokha Arrested Over Alleged Plot With US

Jerome Frank
September 3, 2017

A U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, did not address the allegations against Washington, but issued a statement expressing "grave concern" over the arrest, saying Ken Sokha "has a long, distinguished, and internationally recognized commitment to human rights and peaceful democracy".

One of Cambodia's major English-language newspapers will close this week because it is unable to pay what the government says it owes in back taxes.

He was arrested after video footage from the Australia-based CBN news was posted on Facebook in which Mr Sokha told his audience that the United States government had been helping him to change the government in Cambodia since 1993. Kem Sokha allegedly spoke on CBN about how the supporting him to overthrow the government. The CNRP could therefore be dissolved if Sokha is found guilty.

Sam Rainsy lives in exile in France to avoid a defamation conviction he says was politically motivated.

But the strongman has no plans to relinquish that power anytime soon, and when the opposition party did better than expected during June's local elections, Hun Sen started cracking down on dissent and free speech. Both the paper and the publisher argue that this really has nothing to do with taxes and more to do with Hun Sen trying to curb dissent ahead of the general elections next year. Hun Sen also warned the USA and other foreign countries not to interfere in Cambodian politics.

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The arrest of Kem Sokha comes after the government cracked down on NGOs and critical media.

An independent newspaper, The Cambodia Daily, has been ordered to halt publishing by Monday because of a tax dispute, and at least 15 radio stations have been ordered to stop broadcasting programming from the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The country's tax department announced in early August that the Cambodia Daily, an independent English-language newspaper, owes some $6 million in unpaid tax from 2007 to 2016, and ordered the publisher to pay in full by September 4. "The above act of this secret conspiracy is treason", the government said in a statement. In recent years, he has become one of China's closest regional allies, and made increasingly strident verbal attacks on the European Union, the United Nations, and the US, as well as any global organizations that criticized him for violations of human or political rights.

The government has recently increased its rhetoric against the US and last month ordered the expulsion of the US State Department-funded National Democratic Institute pro-democracy group. "For months, we have been witnessing the escalation of government attempts to cripple the opposition, but it appears now that Prime Minister Hun Sen is so afraid of what might happen in a genuine vote, he won't allow for competition at all".

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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