Respected Cambodian political leader Kem Sokha was recently sentenced to 27 years under house arrest. The former leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party was convicted of conspiring with the United States to oust Prime Minister Hun Sen. Sokha, who denies the charges, was also banned from running for office and voting in elections.
The United States is deeply troubled by the conviction and sentencing of Kem Sokha, said State Department spokesperson Ned Price. “The multi-year process to silence him, based on a politically motivated charge, is unjust and profoundly diminishes the Kingdom of Cambodia’s standing in the international community. The United States has consistently called on the Cambodian government to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Kem Sokha and all people of Cambodia.”
“Kem Sokha’s conviction is part of a larger pattern of threats, harassment, and other unacceptable actions by Cambodian authorities to target political opposition leaders, media, and civil society,” said spokesperson Price. In 2017, the Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved by the country's Supreme Court two months after Sokha's arrest. Prime Minister Sen's Cambodia’s People’s Party won all 125 seats turning Cambodia overnight into a one-party state. Moreover, at least 39 opposition politicians are held in Cambodian prisons, according to Amnesty International.
Prosecuting and convicting individuals like Kem Sokha and many other political figures for exercising their freedoms of expression and association undermines Cambodia’s constitution, international obligations, and past progress to develop as a peaceful, pluralist, and inclusive society.
Spokesperson Price “urge(d) Cambodian authorities to ensure their citizens can freely exercise their human rights, including freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression, and are encouraged and able to participate in building a truly democratic system.”