Cambodia: CNRP President arrested for treason

Cambodia: CNRP President arrested for treason

Fresh News, a pro-government website, earlier said it had video of Kem Sokha discussing overthrowing Hun Sen with support from the United States.

The government appeared to have based part of its claims against Kem Sokha on a video clip that shows the opposition leader giving a public speech in which he describes a grassroots political strategy to challenge Hun Sen with US support.

Sokha, President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was arrested early on Sunday at his home in Phnom Penh and sent to a prison in Tboung Khmum province, about 150 km from here.

Tension has been growing in the Southeast Asian country in the run-up to a general election next year in which the opposition party has been expected to pose a strong challenge to Hun Sen's rule of more than three decades.

Pictures in Cambodian media showed Sokha being led away with his hands behind his back.

Khieu Sopheak, the interior ministry official, said Kem Sokha had admitted in the video that "he was trained and received funding from a powerful foreign country to topple the government".

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"And if I follow such a tactic and strategy and if I could not win, I do not know what else to do", he said.

The opposition party made no immediate comment on the veracity or content of the video.

Mr. Kem Sokha's arrest was quickly condemned by opposition leaders and worldwide human rights activists.

Kem Monovitthya, one of the politician's daughters, said on Facebook that her father had been handcuffed and taken away after hundreds of policemen raided his home. It wanted a non-violent approach, it said.

The government in recent weeks has closed down radio stations that gave air-time to the opposition party and threatened to shut down other independent media outlets on charges of violating tax laws that analysts say are politically motivated. She said his whereabouts was unknown.

Kem Sokha was arrested at his house in a police swoop at 00:35 AM on September 3.

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Many hundreds more also took shelter on no man's land after failing to cross the border since the last two days. A military source , however, blamed what he described as insurgents for torching the buildings.

Neither the US State Department nor the White House responded immediately to a request for comment.

On August 23, the government closed the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a USA -funded NGO, and ordered its expatriate staff out of the country. Earlier in the year, it suspended joint military exercises with the United States, which has voiced fears over the human rights situation.

"Freedom of speech is rapidly becoming a highly endangered right in Prime Minister Hun Sen's march down the road to dictatorship in Cambodia", said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of the Human Rights Watch campaign group.

CNRP gained strength as the opposition party to the ruling Cambodian People's Party in national elections in July 2013 and in municipal elections in June this year. That's the deadline the government gave the paper when it slapped it with a $6.3 million tax bill last month, accusing it of failing to pay that amount in taxes over the past decade.

Mr Hun Sen added that the national elections would proceed as usual.

Rainsy lives in exile in France to avoid a defamation conviction he says was politically motivated.

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