The arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha on Sunday over allegations of treason have been met with surprise and dismay by ordinary Cambodians.
Prum Sothy, 64, a tuk tuk driver, said the midnight raid on Sokha’s home in Phnom Penh was a “planned strategy” to defeat the opposition ahead of the 2018 general election.
“How come Kem Sokha was able to commit treason while he had [no military power]?” he asked.
Chatting over coffee at a café in Phnom Penh, a retired civil servant, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons, said even supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party who are pro-democracy did not agree with the move.
“I think Cambodian democracy is still blurry, and Cambodians find it hard to trust.”
Many Cambodians who spoke to VOA Khmer said they were disappointed with the arrest and did not believe the charges against Sokha.
Sarou Rin, 46, a moto taxi driver, said the government had violated the Paris Peace Agreement that ended Cambodia’s long and bloody civil war in 1993, which demands a pluralistic, democratic space.
“What hope do we have now? The opposition is being dissolved. Arresting its leader leaves its supporters and activists in no man’s land. The forthcoming election is meaningless.”
Dara, 56, a Phnom Penh resident, said the arrest of Sokha was illegal as no warrant was issued and held parliamentary immunity. “They [the government] do whatever they want to destroy any other party that could hamper their victory,” he said.