Cambodia jails 11 opposition party members for insurrection

Cambodia jails 11 opposition party members for insurrection

A Cambodian court has sentenced 11 opposition party members to jail terms ranging from seven to 20 years for insurrection after an anti-government protest turned violent a year ago.

11 incarcerate 11 Prisoners of ConsciencePHNOM PENH: A court in Cambodia jailed 11 opposition party members on Tuesday for insurrection after an anti-government protest turned violent a year ago, a verdict that could rock a fragile truce between the country’s rival political forces.

The 11 Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) members received jail terms ranging from seven to 20 years for forcibly trying to reopen the country’s only designated protest venue, “Freedom Park”, defence lawyer Sorn Sudalen told Reuters.

The park was temporarily shut as outrage against the ruling Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) grew among activists and trade unions in the wake of a disputed 2013 election, rattling the administration of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Chaos erupted during the rally, as security forces fired tear gas and charged CNRP supporters with batons.

Naly Pilorge, director of Cambodian rights group Licadho, described Tuesday’s court proceedings as a “show trial”.

“We are shocked,” she said. “This is another clear example of how the executive is using courts to threaten political activists.”

The CNRP activists were bailed as part of a peace agreement struck last year between the CPP and CNRP that led to the opposition ending its parliamentary boycott, but there have been signs of tension resurfacing.

Political experts have been sceptical about how lasting the “new culture of dialogue” would be, given the long and bitter history between heavyweights in the two parties.

CNRP, a reincarnation of a formerly impotent opposition, stunned the CPP in the 2013 election by winning votes from urban middle classes, disgruntled textiles workers and farmers angered by land grabs.

The 2018 election will be closely watched as former Khmer Rouge soldier Hun Sen seeks to extend a three-decade grip on power that critics say has been reinforced by the influence he wields over Cambodia’s judiciary, bureaucracy and military.

Analysts See Cambodia Bolstering Military Ties With China

Analysts See Cambodia Bolstering Military Ties With China

Neou Vannarin, July 21, 2015 4:48 PM
FILE - Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, second left, shakes hands with a Chinese army adviser during a graduation ceremony at the Army Institute in Kampong Speu province, March 12, 2015.
FILE – Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh, second left, shakes hands with a Chinese army adviser during a graduation ceremony at the Army Institute in Kampong Speu province, March 12, 2015.

Cambodia is strengthening its military ties with China, and analysts say it is likely to continue doing so for the forseeable future.

Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh made a five-day trip to China last week, meeting with high-ranking military officials and receiving pledges of assistance from the Chinese military.

In a recent interview, he told the VOA Khmer service that the visit was successful in bringing military cooperation between the countries even closer. That relationship is closer than Cambodia’s military ties with the U.S., he said.

Analysts say Phnom Penh is likely to look more and more to Beijing for support because of growing tensions with its old patron, Vietnam, over border issues.

Cambodia and China have traditionally enjoyed close relations, and they became noticeably closer after 2012 when Cambodia, as host of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, sided with China over the contentious South China Sea issue.

The following year, Beijing provided Phnom Penh with a $195 million loan, which bought 12 Chinese Z-9 military helicopters. In May of this year, China pledged military trucks, spare parts, equipment and unspecified chemicals.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has often touted the relationship. During the inauguration of a Chinese-funded road in Kampong Som province last month, he told a group of farmers that Cambodian-Chinese relations were at an all-time high, and that the two were moving toward a “comprehensive” partnership. China’s development fund for Cambodia for 2015 amounted to $140 million, up from $100 million the year before, he said.

Tea Banh defended the bilateral relationship, saying Chinese aid came with no strings attached and that China had never interfered in Cambodian affairs. He declined to disclose how much aid Cambodia would receive from his latest trip.

Benefits for China

Yet analysts warn that China is getting more out of the deal than Cambodia. Chheang Vannarith, a visiting professor at the University of Leeds in England, said China needs Cambodia as a partner in Southeast Asia, where competition is rising.

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