Cambodia's main opposition party ordered dissolved in court ruling
17 November, 2017, 02:01 | Author: Katrina Soto
It claimed that the party's leader, Kem Sokha, had colluded with the USA in the hope of overthrowing the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP).
Sen publicly encouraged CNRP legislators to defect to his party before the Supreme Court announced its decision.
The ruling caps an apparent crackdown on dissenting voices launched by the prime minister ahead of next year's parliamentary elections.
"The court chose to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and to ban its 118 leaders from politics for five years from the date of this verdict issuance", Supreme Court President Dith Munty pronounced the verdict after a five-hour hearing.
He said 118 opposition party members would also be banned from politics for the next five years.
July's general election will be the first national polls since 2013, when Hun Sen narrowly retained office after the opposition made unexpectedly strong gains.
Opposition leader Kem Sokha was arrested in September, and charged with treason over an alleged plot to take power with the connivance of foreign powers.
In 2016,72% of Cambodia's vital garment exports went to North America and Europe, but, backed strongly by China, an increasingly important investor and donor, Hun Sen's steamrolling of any opposition appears unstoppable.
Out of fear for their political future, some CNRP members who won seats in last June's local elections - in which the CPP won about 3.5 million votes against around 3 million won by the CNRP - have switched sides to the ruling party.
Cambodian police officers stand guard at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 16 November 2017.
There was no sign of protests.
"The Supreme Court's decision today is not to end democracy but to deter extremists in order to protect the people and the nation from destruction", said Huy Vannak, undersecretary of state at the interior ministry. Life expectancy has risen from 50 to 70.
The nine-member court said the refusal to send lawyers was effectively an admission of guilt.
More than half the CNRP's members of parliament had already fled Cambodia, fearing detention in a crackdown on Hun Sen's critics, civil rights groups and independent media that began past year.
The lawyers screened videos of Sokha that documented him admitting to having received assistance from the United States in planning his political career and also played audio recordings from Radio Free Asia that they said proved there was a link between the United States and the opposition in planning a colour revolution.
Sam Rainsy said on Wednesday in a Facebook post that he was returning to the party, and said the CNRP would remain in the hearts of Cambodians even it was dissolved.
Chheang Vanarith, a research associate at the Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, views some of these measures as "an overreaction to the potential threat posed by the opposition party".
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