Phnom Penh, regime launches maxi trial against activists and critics

61 defendants charged with "treason". They are part of a group of 121 members of the dissolved opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The trials are an attempt by the leadership to silence those who threaten the "political monopoly".

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - A Cambodian court met this morning for the first hearing in the trial for "treason" against dozens of opponents, part of a series of proceedings against activists and voices critical of the ruling party. Analysts and experts point out that the lawsuits are an attempt by the leadership to "silence the threat" of those who would like to put an end to its "political monopoly".

The defendants are part of a group of 121 people affiliated with the dissolved opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), detained in prison for "treason and incitement to revolt". At least 61 people have received the summons in court, but some of them were not present because they had already fled abroad in fear of an unfair and politically motivated trial, with the certainty of a final sentence.

The CNRP was dissolved by the Phnom Penh Supreme Court in 2017 and its current leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested before the elections the following year. Another leading figure of the party, Sam Rainsy, among main protagonists of the Cambodian opposition movement, has lived in exile in Paris for some time. The ban allowed Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People's Party (CPP) to win parliamentary elections and remain in power, while raising criticisms and concerns from activists and the international community for human rights violations.

Theary Seng, an American-Cambodian lawyer who was among those due in court, said “the real purpose of the charges against me is to silence me”.  Human rights NGOs confirm that these mass trials are an "are an affront to international fair trial standards, Cambodia’s human rights commitments and the rule of law.”

Mu Sochua, human rights activist and former vice-president of the CNRP, speaks of "political motivations" behind the mass trials; moreover, the authorities exploit the policy of "terror" to "discourage supporters of the opposition from marching behind their leaders". Among the accusations made against Kem Sokha that he "conspired" with the United States to overthrow the government and oust Prime Minister Hun Sen, one of China's most loyal allies in Southeast Asia.