TBOUNG KHMUM, Cambodia (AFP) – Cambodian premier Hun Sen threatened to dissolve the country’s embattled opposition party on Monday, as the rival politicians protested outside a remote border prison where their leader is being held for alleged treason.
Last week’s dramatic arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha was the latest move in a years-long crackdown on the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which poses the only real threat to Hun Sen’s 32-year grip on power in next year’s national elections.
The 64-year-old politician was accused of conspiring in a “secret plan” with foreign entities that began in 1993, with Hun Sen alleging that the US was involved in the plot.
On Monday two dozen opposition politicians travelled to the prison where he was sent on the border of Vietnam to protest his arrest.
Back in the capital Phnom Pehn, Hun Sen threatened to dissolve the party if they continued to “protect” their leader.
“If the political party continues to block (proceedings) and continues to protect the traitor, it means this party is also a traitor, so there is no need to keep this party in Cambodia’s democratic process anymore,” said the self-described strongman.
The legal punishment could be the “dissolution of the party”, he added. The opposition politicians made the three-hour trip to the prison in Tboung Khmum province on the same day lawmakers from Hun Sen’s ruling party voted to continue the proceedings against Kem Sokha.