Cambodian government arrests opposition leader

Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Kem Sokha casts his vote during June elections

A former Khmer Rouge officer who defected, Hun Sen has become one of the world's longest-serving leaders through years of wily political manoeuvring and little tolerance of dissent.

Sokha was arrested during a pre-dawn raid on his Phnom Penh home on Sunday for allegedly secretly planning against the government with the backing of the United States.

The English-language paper was slapped with a multi-million dollar tax bill last month, which was supposed to be paid by September 4.

In a statement released by the Cambodian government, officials accused Sokha, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, of conspiring with foreign powers to undermine the current government.

The government said the video and other evidence indicated "secret plans of a conspiracy between Kem Sokha. and foreigners to harm the Kingdom of Cambodia".

"The government's charge lacks credibility, given its long record of misusing its legal system to silence or intimidate critics and political opponents", he said.

Khieu Sopheak, an interior ministry spokesmen told reporters that Sokha's "on-the-spot arrest" was for treason, and that members of parliament had no immunity in such situations.

If Kem Sokha is found guilty of any offence, it could allow the government to shut the party under a new law that forbids parties from having a leader who has been convicted.

Sam Rainsy lives in exile in France to avoid a defamation conviction he says was politically motivated. Her statement did not directly address Hun Sen's accusations against the United States. Hun Sen also warned the USA and other foreign countries not to interfere in Cambodian politics.

The English-language paper had been given a deadline of one month to pay $6.3 million for years of back taxes, which the publication disputed and described as "astronomical".

His Cambodian People's Party won local elections in June, but the opposition also did well, increasing expectations of a close contest in the general election due in 2018.

The arrest of Kem Sokha comes after the government cracked down on NGOs and critical media.

"It's our livelihood, our mission and our passion to put out the news, but it's a small part of what's going on in Cambodia today", said Jodie DeJonge, The Daily's editor in chief.

Last month, the local office of the US-based National Democratic Institute was shuttered by Cambodia and its foreign employees were ordered to leave the country within seven days.

Last month, Cambodia expelled the Washington-based National Democratic Institute and ordered local radio stations to stop broadcasting reports from the United States government-funded Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. In recent years, he has become one of China's closest regional allies, and made increasingly strident verbal attacks on the European Union, the United Nations, and the US, as well as any global organizations that criticized him for violations of human or political rights.

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