We condemn the sentencing of Cambodia’s opposition leader, Kem Sokha, who has been recently sentenced to 27 years under house arrest on bogus charges of treason. He is also stripped of his right to vote and is barred from running for political office – a major blow to any notion of credibility for Cambodia’s elections scheduled in July.
Kem Sokha is a former human rights advocate turned politician, whose party leaders and activists have mostly either been prosecuted or forced into exile due to the crackdown on civil dissent. Worryingly, independent media outlets have also been shut down in recent years to quell any form of dissent.
We echoed the UN’s Human Rights Commissioner who called for Kem Sokha’s release. This latest development enforces the need for an judiciary independence and institutional reforms in Southeast Asian countries, particularly Cambodia at this point.
The sentence of Kem Sokha will have a chilling effects on freedom of expression, especially among the opposition parties in the run-up to the general election. We call on the Cambodian government to stop all forms of persecution of opposition parties. The integrity of the general election will be questionable with opposition parties being disallowed to contest freely and fairly without fear of reprisal.
In solidarity with all democracy activists,
BERSIH International Bureau