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Monday, January 17, 2022

'I still need justice': Cambodia frees opposition leader

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'I still need justice': Cambodia frees opposition leader
'I still need justice': Cambodia frees opposition leader

Cambodia freed opposition leader Kem Sokha from house arrest on Sunday, amid EU deliberations over whether to punish a crackdown against the country's opposition by removing preferential trade terms. David Doyle reports.

After two years under house arrest, Cambodia freed opposition leader Kem Sokha on Sunday (November 10).

But it's keeping charges of treason in place and the joint founder of then now-banned Cambodia National Rescue Party, or CNRP, is barred from politics and from leaving the country.

Outside Kem Sokha's house, his lawyer says they are continuing to push for the court to drop all charges.

Pressure has been growing on Cambodia's authoritarian leader Hun Sen to ease a crackdown on his opponents as the European Union considers whether to cut preferential trade terms it gives Cambodia as a "least-developed nation".

Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander, has ruled Cambodia for more than three decades.

But when Kem Sokha and another opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, united their rival opposition parties before an election in 2013, Hun Sen's ruling Cambodian People's Party suddenly faced a serious electoral threat.

Kem Sokha was arrested before an election in 2017, accused of plotting with foreigners to oust Hun Sen - a charge he dismissed as nonsense.

The Cambodia People's Party's subsequent election victory was dismissed as a farce by Western countries.

Rainsy fled to Paris in 2015 after a conviction for criminal defamation.

On Saturday (November 9) he arrived back in the region, flying into Malaysia and saying he aimed to return home to rally Hun Sen's opponents.

The crackdown on Cambodia's opposition prompted the European Union to begin a process to reconsider the trade preferences granted under an "Everything But Arms", or EBA trade program.

It's preliminary determination is expected later this month.

The EU delegation in Phnom Penh made no immediate comment.

The EU accounts for more than a third of Cambodia's exports, including clothing, footwear and bicycles.

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