Clock ticks on Cambodia opposition as court date looms

President of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha casts his vote during local elections in Kandal province, Cambodia June 4, 2017. — Reuters pic
President of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Kem Sokha casts his vote during local elections in Kandal province, Cambodia June 4, 2017. — Reuters pic

PHNOM PENH, Oct 30 — Cambodia’s Supreme Court will start hearings next month expected to result in the dissolution of the main opposition party, as Prime Minister Hun Sen chops down his political rivals before a general election.

But the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) will not attend the sessions since it believes the decision has already been taken to shut the party down, according to one of its legislators.

While Hun Sen has been in office for 32 years, the 2018 poll could have tested his grip on power.

But the wily strongman has chiseled away at his critics, using pliant courts and a web of new laws to corner the CNRP.

The government has asked the court to shut down the CNRP for allegedly violating a new law banning political parties from engaging in activities that threaten national security.

The Supreme Court “would like to invite” the CNRP president to the first hearing on November 16, it said in a statement released Monday.

The party will not attend, according to Mao Molyvann, a CNRP MP from Tbong Khmum province and one of the few opposition lawmakers not to have fled the country in recent weeks.

“We have agreed that we will not send lawyers or submit any documents to the Supreme Court and let it be,” he said.

“They (the ruling Cambodia People’s Party) should choose negotiations rather than dissolving the CNRP...and stepping away from democracy.”

Observers say the dissolution of the CNRP is inevitable, giving Hun Sen’s ruling CPP a clear run at the polls.

Most of the CNRP’s 55 lawmakers have already fled the country, fearing jail under trumped-up charges.

The ruling party has already voted to allow election authorities to redistribute seats or local posts held by a dissolved party.

Those are likely to go to CPP allies if and when the CNRP is dissolved, ensuring Hun Sen holds onto his post.

Critics accuse Hun Sen of overseeing a corrupt and venal administration with no regard for human rights or political freedoms. — AFP

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