Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for 32 years, has been pursuing legal cases against members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) through the compliant courts.
Last month, acting party leader Kem Sokha was jailed on treason charges and more than 20 opposition politicians have since fled the country, CNRP MP Mao Monyvann said. The party has 55 MPs.
“Now there are only a few more than 10 still in the country,” he told AFP.
Many have left for the US or Europe, where they have family or dual citizenship, the MP said.
Kem Sokha through his legal team called the treason charge “total slander”, saying he had always sought “change through nonviolent elections”.
He was charged with treason for allegedly conspiring with the US to topple the Cambodian government, and could be jailed for up to 30 years. The evidence against him includes video from several years ago showing him attending a seminar where he spoke about receiving advice from US pro-democracy groups.
Deputy leader Mu Sochua fled on Tuesday to an unknown location after Hun Sen threatened to dissolve the CNRP if it continued to “protect” her.
She said Hun Sen made direct threats against her and her colleagues and that she no longer felt safe.
“I don’t intend to continue to live under the continuous and open threat by the PM of arrest,” Mu Sochua told AFP.
Party spokesperson Kem Monovithya tweeted that Mu Sochua had been warned by a Interior Ministry source that she would be arrested.
A US Senate resolution by Republican John McCain and Democrat Dick Durbin this week condemned the anti-democratic measures and repeated abuse during the five elections since 1991 that were “marked by fraud, intimidation, violence, and the government’s misuse of legal mechanisms to weaken opposition candidates and parties”.
“Despite decades of US and international attention to promote a pluralistic and democratic system, the situation in Cambodia remains dire,” said McCain.
A former Khmer Rouge cadre, Prime Minister Hun Sen, 65, fled Cambodia in 1977 and returned with the Vietnamese military during that country’s war against the savage regime in 1979. He was first appointed foreign minister and was named prime minister in the Vietnamese-supported government in 1985.
Rights groups also criticised the veteran premier.
“It’s not surprising that Mu Sochua is fleeing these threats by newly minted dictator Hun Sen because no one doubts he can order instant violence by the military and police, and controls all the levers in Cambodia’s kangaroo courts,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.
Cambodia National Rescue Party leaders Kem Sokha and Mu Sochua. Picture credit: Flickr