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Dozens of Opposition Members Questioned, Suspected of Violating Court Verdict

Former Vice President of opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Pol Ham, center left, prays Buddhist monks, foreground, together with his former party lawmaker Son Chhay, center right, during a Buddhist ceremony, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, F

For former members of the CNRP, even organizing a private party or posting messages and activities online comes with surveillance and questions from the authorities.

At least 20 local officials of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party in Battambang province have been summoned for questioning related to allegations they violated a Supreme Court order which dissolved the CNRP in November 2017.

Fear has gripped local opposition officials since the CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court. For former members of the CNRP, even organizing a private party or posting messages and activities online comes with surveillance and questions from the authorities.

Phan Reth, a former deputy commune chief in Kdol Daun Teav, said he was summoned to appear at the court on May 8.

“This is another threat and a new warning to put more burden on [me],” he said. Reth was elected as the deputy commune chief in June 2017, but he was removed from the opposition after his party was dissolved.

He defended his continued public support for the former opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, as his political right.

Chea Chiv, a former CNRP executive committee chief for Battambang province, said he and 20 of his colleagues had been subpoenaed so far in what he said was a politically motivated case.

“It is unfair; the court just followed the politicians since the court is under the order of politicians,” he said.

“The summons is a threat and intended to suppress the rights [of opposition members]. I have no freedom of expression as a citizen,” added Chiv, 39, who was banned from political life for five years in the same ruling that dissolved the party.

He said his online posts and activities have been closely monitored by the government.

Teang Sambo, Battambang provincial court spokeswoman, said she was unaware of the case.

Another court spokesman, Heng Luy, could not be reached for comment.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan claimed that the summonses were not related to politics and the government can’t comment on the “court’s affairs.”

Immediately following the party’s dissolution, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party oversaw a purge of CNRP officials, with more than 5,000 local CNRP representatives losing their positions. The opposition had controlled more than 43 percent of seats on local councils following a strong showing at local elections in 2017.

The CPP, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, bristles with paranoia over the alleged threat of a “color revolution”, even as it has stifled almost all dissenting voices and claimed every seat in parliament in July 2018’s general election.

The CNRP was the country’s largest opposition party and the only party to win seats in parliament in the 2013 election. Its president, Kem Sokha, was jailed on treason charges shortly before the party was disbanded. He was later placed under house arrest and is still awaiting trial. The CPP claims that Sokha conspired with the United States to overthrow Hun Sen.

Eng Chhay Eang, vice president of the CNRP, told VOA Khmer that the court cases were evidence of a continued crackdown on the opposition/ “Hun Sen knows that the CNRP is an obstacle to his power.”