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Civil Society Joins Against Political Threats

The Civil Society Coalition expressed great concern of political threats of the opposition and competing parties as the country heads into a general election.

The coalition, comprised of local rights and development agencies, said Thursday threats by the judicial system were “aimed particularly at non-ruling parties.”

“We are wary, because we’ve remarked that there are threats and intimidation,” said Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, a member of the coalition.

Prince Norodom Ranariddh is running a competing political party from exile, facing 18 months in prison for embezzlement if he returns, and opposition leader Sam Rainsy is facing a lawsuit of defamation and disinformation brought by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thursday the cases were a question of wrongdoing, not intimidation.

To ensure a fair environment, wrongdoers must face punishment, he said.

Cambodia’s courts are widely criticized as politicized and biased toward the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

The case against Sam Rainsy could lead to a jail sentence, if the courts find him guilty of spreading disinformation in a public setting.

The Civil Society Coalition also said Thursday there had been insufficient political space given to competing parties, threatening the free and fair status of the elections.

The group called on the government to find a way to bring Prince Ranariddh back for the election.