Jailed Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha called for free and fair elections in the Southeast Asian nation. In a New Year’s message read out by his daughter in a Facebook video, he said: “Leave an opportunity for people to choose leadership representatives through an election that is free and fair”.
Kem Sokha said 2017 had been marked by big political crises that led to a “democracy walked backward”.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, the leader of the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) was charged with treason for allegedly conspiring with the United States to topple the Cambodian government and could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
He was arrested in September on the basis of videos from several years ago showing him at a seminar where he spoke about receiving advice from US pro-democracy groups.
Speaking to the Reuters news agency, a spokesman from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), Sok Eysan, said there was little interest in Kem Sokha’s New Year’s message and that opposition politicians were free to create a new party.
Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP in November and banned more than 100 opposition lawmakers from politics after Hun Sen accused the party of planning a coup in the country.
The CNRP had been seen as the only viable contender in the upcoming election, according to DW. Elections are scheduled to take place in July.