PHNOM PENH —
Government lawyers on Thursday presented evidence to the Supreme Court that they contended proved the existence of a U.S.-backed plot to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen in a “color revolution”.
Four lawyers showed off a series of videos, photographs and audio recordings over the course of about four hours, after which time Judge Dith Munty, a ruling Cambodian People’s Party member, ruled the Cambodia National Rescue Party should be dissolved and more than 100 of its officials banned from politics for five years.
The lawyers claimed the evidence, which amounted to photos of CNRP leaders meeting U.S. officials, leading rallies and other widely published events, showed that a plot existed, backed by Washington, to stir up a revolution.
The government’s legal team also pointed to a 2016 speech by U.S. President Donald Trump, in which he said that America would “stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about, that we shouldn’t be involved with.”
The lawyers concluded that “this clearly shows the U.S. had a policy to topple other countries’ governments.”
“This system has a plan which has NGOs as hands and is funded by foreigners,” they added.
Kem Sokha, CNRP president, was jailed in September on treason charges and is awaiting trial. In a video played to the court on Thursday, which senior ruling party officials have held up as evidence of his guilt, he addresses a rally of supporters in Australia some years ago, telling them of how he was advised by U.S. officials to form a human rights group as a way of garnering political support.
The creation by Sokha of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), was directed by the United States, the lawyers argued. “What was CCHR created for? It was to gather people to topple the government,” they said.
They also claimed that the merger of Sokha’s Human Rights Party with the Sam Rainsy Party in 2012 was coordinated by Washington.
Photographs presented to the court included shots of CNRP leaders meeting State Department officials and Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and John McCain of Arizona.
They went on to claim that the CNRP had received “training” in Indonesia in 2016 from a U.S.-funded NGO and that the United States had funded numerous independent NGOs that “have a tendency to work against the government and intended to topple the government.”
Ky Tech, the chief lawyer in the government’s team, said: “There is considerable evidence that the activities of the CNRP were part of a color revolution controlled by foreigners, especially the United States.”
In September, U.S. Ambassador William Heidt called the government’s claims “baseless”.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said the court’s decision was “the culmination of Hun Sen's backdoor plan to ensure his victory in next year's election.”
“The Cambodia government's entire narrative of a so-called 'color revolution' is politically contrived fairy tale written by the ruling CPP,” he said in a statement on Thursday.