Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha arrested over alleged plot

Hun Sen who is also president of the ruling Cambodian People's Party, arrives before a ceremony to mark the 66th anniversary of the establishment of the party at Koh Pich island in Phnom Penh

We note with grave concern the Cambodian government's arrest of Kem Sokha, respected leader of the political opposition, on a number of charges that appear to be politically motivated. "When doing businesses, you have to pay tax".

The pro-government Fresh News website quoted tax authorities as saying that the tax bill stands even if the paper shuts down and that whoever is responsible at the publication would be barred from leaving Cambodia until the money is paid.

Kem Sokha was arrested at his house in a police swoop at 00:35 AM on September 3.

Kem Sokha's daughter, Monovithya Kem, also a party official, said on Twitter that her father had been taken away handcuffed after a raid by between 100 and 200 police, who had arrived without an arrest warrant.

Khieu Sopheak, an interior ministry spokesmen told reporters that Sokha's "on-the-spot arrest" was for treason, and that members of parliament had no immunity in such situations.

He added that Mr Sokha had confessed that the USA helped him and used academics and others to plan the change of government.

"The above secret conspiracy is an act of treason", the statement said, adding Kem Sokha faced up to 30 years in jail if convicted. The CNRP could therefore be dissolved if Sokha is found guilty.

"I know it's absolutely true that press freedom has come under pressure in many countries", Butler says.

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Hun Sen, 65, is determined to extend his three-decade rule and dismantle the burgeoning popularity of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who have gained from public anger over inequality and corruption.

In recent weeks, Mr. Hun Sen's government has cracked down on independent news outlets and democracy advocates.

The arrest of Kem Sokha comes after the government cracked down on NGOs and critical media.

Last month, Hun Sen's government also stepped up attacks on the media, halting broadcasts by some radio stations and threatening to shut the Cambodia Daily over what it said were $6.3 million (Dh23.25m) in unpaid taxes.

One of Cambodia's last independent newspapers, the Cambodia Daily, has announced it will close after the government ordered it to pay a huge tax bill. In an ordinary process, matters in dispute would be resolved after an audit and private negotiations.

The government also ordered the expulsion of the National Democratic Institute, a pro-democracy nonprofit organization that is loosely affiliated with the Democratic Party of the United States.

A former Khmer Rouge officer who defected, Hun Sen has become one of the world's longest-serving leaders through years of wily political manoeuvring and little tolerance of dissent.

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