Tue, Sep 12, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Parliament votes to try Kem Sokha for treason

CAMBODIA:Despite a boycott by Kem Sokha’s party the vote passed with 67 in favor of his prosecution on charges of treason, though his immunity status is unclear

Reuters, PHNOM PENH

The Cambodian parliament yesterday voted to allow the prosecution of opposition leader Kem Sokha on treason charges that have been criticized by Western countries and are dismissed by his party as nonsense.

Kem Sokha’s arrest on Sept. 3 marked an escalation in a crackdown on critics of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of an election next year in which he could face the toughest electoral challenge of more than three decades in power.

Kem Sokha’s Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) boycotted the parliamentary vote, but it passed easily because Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has a majority. The vote was passed with 67 out of 123 voting in favor. None opposed it.

The vote was specifically on whether to prosecute Kem Sokha and it was unclear what it meant for the status of the parliamentary immunity from prosecution that he technically gets as an elected member of parliament.

The evidence presented against Kem Sokha so far is a video recorded in 2013 in which he discusses a strategy to win power with the help of unspecified Americans.

His lawyers have dismissed the evidence and said he was only discussing election strategy.

Cambodian National Assembly President Heng Samrin said the vote allowed the government “to proceed with the case of arresting, detaining and charging Kem Sokha.”

Parliamentarians from the opposition party said they would go to the prison where Kem Sokha is being held to demand his release. Security was increased at the prison, several hours drive from Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen, a 65-year-old former Khmer Rouge commander, has ruled Cambodia for more than 30 years and last week said that he planned to stay in power for another decade.

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