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Hun Sen Claims He Has ‘No Power’ Over Courts

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, foreground, gestures as his answers the journalists question at National Assembly, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, July 28, 2014.

Reacting to major criticism over arrests and jailing of activists this month, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday said he does not have “any power” over the judiciary to interfere in their cases.

“If I had the power, I would order the courts to release them,” Hun Sen said, while then warning activists “not to block the road” with their demonstrations.

In fact, Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party is widely and frequently criticized for using the courts as a tool against dissidents.

At least 10 activists this month have been sentenced to a year in jail for protesting in the streets, in a swift operation that has greatly concerned international and local rights organizations.

UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi said in a statement Tuesday the arrests and rapid convictions “seem to be all well calculated.”

“The lack of judicial independence is one of the central obstacles to achieving the just, inclusive society that Cambodians strive for,” he said.