International organizations decry Supreme Court’s dissolution verdict on CNRP

  • Cambodians ride motorbikes past the hardquarters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in Phnom Penh on October 6, 2017. The Cambodian government on October 6 asked the country’s top court to dissolve the embattled opposition party whose leader has been thrown in jail for alleged treason charges, lawyers said. / AFP PHOTO / TANG CHHIN SOTHY

International and regional organizations decried the Supreme Court’s decision to dissolve the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) as Prime Minister Hun Sen hailed the decision, saying it was based soundly on the principle of “rule of law”, The Phnom Penh Post reported on Friday (Nov 17).

Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson called the decision the “death of democracy” and a “political killing of the Paris Peace Accord” whereas the International Commission of Jurists labelled the ruling a “human rights and rule of law crisis”.

The Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights said Cambodia was now ushering in a “new era of de facto one party rule”.

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the decision was the “end of democracy” in Cambodia.

CNRP deputy vice president Mu Sochua decried the decision but predicted a democratic change would still come about.  She called on international donors to take the most needed step of targeted sanctions against Cambodian People’s Party’s key figures.

The CNRP is accused of plotting to topple the government. Among the evidence presented in court were two videos from 2013 that have been pointed to repeatedly – of party leader Kem Sokha saying he received US training and of former head Sam Rainsy calling on the armed forces to turn their guns on the government.

After a five-hour trial and two hours of deliberation, the presiding judge and senior CPP official Dith Munty announced the verdict just after 5 pm Thursday (Nov 16) evening, ordering the dissolution of the CNRP and banning 118 of its senior officials from any political activity in the Kingdom for five years, effective immediately.

Munty also made sure to announce that the court’s ruling was final and there could be no appeal.

The hearing was a one-sided event with the CNRP declining to send legal representation – a move cited by Munty as a confession of guilt. 

Prime Minister Hun Sen took to television yesterday evening to deliver a statement in support of the Supreme Court’s decision. “I would like to tell international friends that we are enforcing our own law,” he said as he warned the international community not to commit the same errors it had in the past, like supporting Lon Nol regime and, later, the Khmer Rouge. He insisted that the end of the CNRP did not undo Cambodia constitutionally mandated multi-party political system.