A Vote in Cambodia's Supreme Court Could Effectively Dismantle Democracy

Cambodia The End of Democracy		
		 Nov 17 2017 Sri Lanka Guardian Feature Statements No comments

Cambodia The End of Democracy Nov 17 2017 Sri Lanka Guardian Feature Statements No comments

Prime Minister Hun Sen has been leading the CPP in Cambodia for almost 33 years, and many experts see his government's dismantling of the opposition CNRP - a party that almost dethroned the ruling party in the 2013 general election - as an attempt to corner the competition and guarantee the CPP the July 2018 national election.

Judge Dith Munty, himself a member of Hun Sen's ruling CPP party, said the court had also banned 118 CNRP politicians from office for five years, in what rights groups blasted as a mockery of judicial independence that turned Cambodia into a de facto one party state.

With the CPP's old majority being eroded, the risk of being further challenged at the polls appears to have unsettled Hun Sen, who has overseen a crackdown on the CNRP since local elections in June.

The opposition staunchly denies the allegations and says they are politically motivated - a position backed by global rights groups and independent analysts who say no credible evidence has emerged to back the claims. In 1997, he ousted a co-prime minister in a bloody coup.

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From the viewpoint of the CNRP, the pressure being put on Hun Sen so far by Western countries that Cambodia used to depend on for aid has been mild and ineffectual, with the current USA administration of President Donald Trump paying scant attention to the country. American influence has been waning for years as Cambodia edges closer to China, which has supported Hun Sen's efforts to "protect national security and stability".

The party rejected the accusations as politically motivated.

"The misuse of the courts to dissolve the CNRP is one of the gravest threats to human rights and representative democracy modern Cambodia has seen", said Kingsley Abbot of the Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists.

The government had asked the court to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which was accused of plotting to take power with help from the United States after the arrest of party leader Kem Sokha on 3 September. She and her sister also fled, fearing arrest after the government accused them of conspiring with the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Kem Sokha, 64, was charged last month with treason, a crime that could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.

Hun Sen's next step is to see the CNRP dissolved by an anticipated court ruling on Thursday for allegedly conspiring with foreigners to topple his government.

"We don't know who is next", an editor at the Voice of Democracy radio station said.

"When you put your principal opponent in jail and half the elected officials in the opposition have to flee the country for their own safety, you have basically disqualified yourself from being a legitimate leader", Chabot said of Hun Sen.

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Cambodian police officers stand guard at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 16 November 2017.

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