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Court to Consider Dissolving Cambodian Opposition Party

FILE - Prime Minister Hun Sen, front row center, and lawmakers from his ruling Cambodian People's Party sit near empty seats held by opposition lawmakers, inside the session hall of the National Assembly, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013.

The dissolution of the CNRP could leave the Cambodian People’s Party unopposed in parliament.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court is considering the dissolution of the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, following a request from the interior ministry.

The interior ministry on Friday lodged a complaint with the court after the ministry said it had received two separate complaints from the Cambodian Youth Party and Funcinpec. Under recent amendments to the political parties law the court can dissolve the opposition if it finds that the party has associated with convicted felons or conspired against the national interest.

The CNRP president, Kem Sokha, is currently in jail on charges of “treason” while several senior officials and Prime Minister Hun Sen have alleged the party was involved in a plot to topple the government.

Ky Tech, a lawyer for Hun Sen, told reporters on Friday that the interior ministry’s legal team had sent 21 pieces of evidence that it believes proves the CNRP has violated the law and thus should be dissolved.

“As a lawyer representing the Ministry of Interior, and according to the investigation and consideration [of the evidence], it can be seen that the evidence is sufficient for the court to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party,” he said.

The dissolution of the CNRP could leave the Cambodian People’s Party unopposed in parliament. The CNRP currently holds 55 of the National Assembly’s 123 seats, with the ruling CPP holding the other 68.

So Chantha, a political scientist, said the dissolution of the CNRP would undermine democracy in Cambodia. “I think Cambodia will be punished, especially by the big democratic countries around the world,” he added.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said in a statement on Friday that the government was turning next year’s general election into a “bad joke”.

“Make no mistake, the dissolution of the CNRP is a done deal because the Supreme Court is totally controlled by the ruling CPP party and the judges will perform exactly as Hun Sen orders. This is a strongman's coup d’état, with Hun Sen shamelessly transforming himself into a dictator for the whole world to see,” he said.

Khieu Sopheak, interior ministry spokesman, said that if the court decides to dissolve the CNRP, its 55 sitting MPs would be out of a job.

Son Chhay, CNRP chief whip, could not be reached for comment. In recent weeks, numerous CNRP officials have left the country fearing arrest.