Cambodia police raid opposition HQ

Kem Sokha (left) with Sam Rainsy. Source: Wikimedia

Cambodia’s opposition HQ has been raided and security personnel tried to arrest its deputy leader by ambushing his car, witnesses reported.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy posted on Facebook that security personnel raided his Cambodian National Rescue Party’s head office looking for Kem Sokha, his deputy. Earlier, armed policemen stopped his vehicle.

“I can only confirm to you that Kem Sokha’s car was surrounded by police with guns,” party spokesman Yim Sovann said. “I think … they want to arrest him.”

Kem Sokha has ignored several court summonses to answer questions over defamation charges, one by his alleged mistress. He has questioned if his personal life justified so much effort.

“Why do they spend so many human resources on my personal issue?” he said earlier this month. “If it is just solely Kem Sokha’s personal story, they might not spend this much.”

Sam Rainsy earlier condemned plans to hold elections next year because several opposition members and activists have been jailed recently.

“Taking full advantage of its control over the judiciary, which it blatantly uses as a tool for political repression, the government gets an increasing number of its opponents and critics, including leaders and members of the civil society, arrested and jailed on fallacious charges,” said Sam Rainsy in a statement. He is in self-imposed exile because he fears arrest. He is living in France or has been travelling since an arrest warrant was issued last November over a 2008 defamation case, when he was removed from office and stripped of legislative immunity.

“The current political repression, and with it the climate of fear and intimidation, must first be put to an end before anybody can talk about free and fair elections.”

Local elections are due in June 2017 and general elections in July 2018.

Sok Eysan, spokesman for Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party, disputed Sam Rainsy’s claims, saying: “I don’t see any intimidation or repression against any people, the civil society or political parties by the government.”

Five human rights activists were recently arrested for allegedly attempting to cover up an affair between Kem Sokha and his supposed hairdresser lover. A political analyst, Ou Virak, was sued for suggesting the arrests amounted to a set-up.

Hun Sen has been in power for three decades with the opposition claiming the 2013 general election was fixed. Both the EU and US expressed concerns about irregularities, and Human Rights Watch said the ruling party “appears to have been involved in electoral fraud”.

The US Embassy in Cambodia expressed concern about the actions targeting Kem Sokha.

“The deployment of paramilitary forces at the Cambodian National Rescue Party headquarters and armed confrontations with CNRP supporters on May 26 are disproportionate and dangerous steps,” the embassy posted on Facebook. “We call on the government to refrain from using unnecessary force and urge the government and CNRP to resume dialogue immediately to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis.”