Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday vowed to remain in power for another decade, a day after a court charged the head of the country’s opposition party with treason for allegedly trying to topple the government.
Speaking to around 10,000 garment industry workers at a factory in the capital Phnom Penh, Hun Sen, 65, said he would run for two more terms as prime minister to defend the stability of the nation before considering whether to step aside.
“Earlier I had a mixed feeling about when I should stop being the prime minister,” said the strongman, who has led Cambodia for 32 years.
“But thanks to the recent developments in connection with the treacherous activities of the Cambodian who has been arrested … I have decided to continue for at least another 10 years,” he added.
“May I ask foreigners not to get jealous with me? I am the longest-serving prime minister in the world.”
Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won commune elections held on June 4, but the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) received nearly 44 percent of all votes to the CPP’s 51 percent, in an outcome that many see as a bellwether for general elections scheduled for July 2018.
In recent weeks, the government has launched a crackdown against the independent media, NGOs, and the political opposition, drawing global condemnation for what is widely seen as a bid to stifle dissent ahead of next year’s ballot.
CNRP chief Kem Sokha was arrested over the weekend in Phnom Penh after government-aligned media outlet Fresh News released a heavily edited video from Australia-based Cambodian Broadcasting Network (CBN) it said showed the opposition leader was working with the United States to unseat Hun Sen.
On Tuesday, a Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor formally charged Kem Sokha with conspiring with a foreign power to “foment hostilities or acts of aggression against Cambodia,” in accordance with Article 443 of the country’s Criminal Code. The opposition leader faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
The “Seiha” Facebook account, which regularly leaks documents attacking the opposition, recently released a list of people it said had acted with Kem Sokha and would be taken into custody, including CNRP deputy president Pol Ham; lawmakers Yem Ponhearith, Ou Chanrith, and Son Chhay; and Kem Sokha’s two daughters.
The U.S., the European Union, and the United Nations have issued statements expressing grave concerns over the arrest, although a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said Beijing—one of Hun Sen’s closest allies in the region “supports the Cambodian government’s efforts to protect national security and stability,” when asked about Kem Sokha at a recent press briefing.
Full story: rfa.org
Reported by Sereyvuth Oung and Neang Ieng for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
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