Prime Minister Hun Sen has warned the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party that it could face dissolution if its leader, Kem Sokha, does not step down and is found guilty of espionage, charges he currently faces.
During a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh on Monday, Hun Sen said Sokha would not be pardoned, adding: “If a political party is involved with a traitor, [Parliament] concluded that the party will be legally punished and will face dissolution.”
Hun Sen has recently said he will rule Cambodia for a further decade, bringing his reign to over 40 years, a decision that many Cambodians had thought they would get to make at the ballot box next year.
Sokha was detained in a pre-dawn raid last week over a video of a speech he gave publicly in 2013 in which he spoke of receiving advice from Americans and Canadians about political organizing in a democratic society.
If found guilty, he could serve up to 30 years in prison.
Mu Sochua, CNRP vice president, declined to comment on Hun Sen’s statement. “We only ask for a free and fair election,” she said.
A group of 17 opposition lawmakers was blocked from visiting Sokha in prison on Monday.
So Chantha, a political scientist, said the loss of the CNRP would have “an adverse effect on Cambodia’s reputation and democracy.”