27 years in prison for Cambodian opposition figure Kem Sokha
EA court in Phnom Penh on Friday sentenced prominent Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha to 27 years in prison for high treason. According to the Khmer Times newspaper, the judges justified the verdict with alleged “secret agreements” between the 69-year-old Sokhas and foreigners in Cambodia and other countries. Their aim was to overthrow the Cambodian government with a “color revolution”.
It is unclear how Sokha will serve the drastic penalty. Following the verdict, Sokha was initially placed back under the house arrest he has been under since his arrest in 2017. He is forbidden any contact outside of the family and any political activity. Human rights activists condemned the “politically motivated” trial. It’s a ploy to sideline the opposition and undermine democracy, said Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson. The German embassy in Phnom Penh was “deeply disappointed”. Media freedom and pluralism were among the principles of democracy. The American ambassador Patrick Murphy spoke of a misjudgment based on an “invented conspiracy”.
Sokha was the leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was banned after his arrest in late 2017. The party originally emerged from a merger of the party of exiled politician Sam Rainsy and Sokha’s Human Rights Party. Cambodia has been ruled by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party since 1985. The party has held all seats in parliament since 2018.