Cambodia court meets for mass opposition trial By Reuters

By Prak Chan Thul PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – A Cambodian court met on Thursday for the treason trial of dozens of opposition figures, one of a series of cases that activists consider measures by the ruling party to sideline the threats to their political monopoly. The defendants are among 121 people affiliated with the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) who are charged with treason and incitement. Sixty-one opposition figures have been summoned to appear in court, Mu Sochua, the vice president of the CNRP who is in the United States, told Reuters in a text message. It was not immediately clear how many would turn up, given that many are in exile for fear that they will not be properly heard. The CNRP was banned and its leader, Kem Sokha, arrested before the 2018 elections, allowing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party to win all parliamentary seats, raising international concern. Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American lawyer who was among those required to appear in court, said she had the right to express opinions, including the right to express her disagreement. “The true purpose of the charges against me is to silence me,” he said in a statement. Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, Yamini Mishra, said in a statement: “These mass trials are an affront to international standards for fair trials, Cambodia’s commitments to human rights and the rule of law.” Mu Sochua said in an email that she would bring exiled party members and activists to Cambodia on Sunday to defend herself in court, which she said had a duty to allow their return. Mu Sochua said the mass trials were politically motivated and that the authorities were sowing fear to dissuade opposition supporters from joining their leaders. The charges against party leader Kem Sokha stem from accusations that he conspired with the United States to overthrow Hun Sen, charges that he and Washington reject. The government said the accused would be allowed to return to Cambodia but must abide by the court’s decision. “We are not causing any problems for them … they can come freely,” said government spokesman Phay Siphan. Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin (OTC 🙂 said the court had “done its duty” but declined to say whether the accused would be allowed entry. The Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

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