Cambodia's top court dissolves main opposition party

Australia has expressed deep concerns about a court ban on Cambodia's main opposition party

Australia has expressed deep concerns about a court ban on Cambodia's main opposition party

Since the leader of the opposition, Kem Sokha, was arrested on September 3, more than half of the sitting CNRP lawmakers have fled the country, fearing arrest or violence. All of the seats that the CNRP gained in the 2017 commune elections and the 2013 general election will be turned over to the CPP.

According to the reports, Cambodia's Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has ruled for 32 years and has held a tight grip on power since ousting a co-prime minister in a bloody 1997 coup.

"I would like to announce that I, Sam Rainsy, will become a member of the Cambodia National Rescue Party again from today onwards, whether it is dissolved or not".

July's general election will be the first national polls since 2013, when Mr Hun Sen narrowly retained office after the opposition made unexpectedly strong gains. Human Rights Watch said it represented the "death of democracy" in the country. "It will not die".

"This is yet more evidence of how the judiciary in Cambodia is essentially used as an arm of the executive and as a political tool to silence dissent", said James Gomez, Amnesty International's director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "The authorities have launched a widespread assault on dissent. the global community can not stand idly — it must send a strong signal that this crackdown is unacceptable". The government has forced the closure of media organisations, including the renowned Cambodia Daily newspaper, and kicked out civil society groups.

But they have so far shown no appetite for sanctions against Cambodia's government, which is now closely allied to China.

The leaders agreed Russian Federation would send a team of election monitors to observe the vote and ensure it was free and fair, National Election Committee spokesperson Hang Puthea told the Khmer Times.

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The court had "once again proved its main objective is not justice, but the furtherance of the Prime Minister's personal prerogatives", an APHR statement said.

Mr Hun Sen's government also has targeted civil society and media, shuttering radio stations with programming from US -funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America.

Apparently hoping to prevent another close call, Hun Sen has been taking draconian measures against the CNRP ahead of the next election, such as instituting legal action to have it dissolved. The United States and European Union missions in Cambodia declined immediate comment on the court ruling.

Before Thursday's ruling, Hun Sen had encouraged opposition lawmakers to defect to his ruling party.

Journalists from the Phnom Penh Post who were present for the morning trial reported that interior minister Ky Tech accused the opposition party of being instigators of a revolution like the kind seen in Yugoslavia or Tunisia.

Charles Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker who chairs the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, slammed the verdict, calling it "the final nail in the coffin for Cambodian democracy".

Sam Rainsy said on Wednesday in a Facebook post that he was returning to the party, and said the CNRP would remain in the hearts of Cambodians even it were dissolved. "The CNRP was dissolved not for breaking any laws, but simply for being too popular and a threat to the ruling party's dominance".

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