Cambodian premier, Hun Sen (Source: Reuters/Samrang Pring)
On 16th November, the Supreme Court of Cambodia ruled to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the country's main opposition party. In its verdict, the Court also banned 118 members of the CNRP from engaging in political activities for 5 years, on charges of conspiring with foreign elements to stage a revolution.
"It is a serious crime, so the party will be dissolved according to Article 38 of the Law on Political Parties", said Dith Munty, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who delivered the verdict. According to reports, Chief Judge Munty is a high-ranking member of the ruling Cambodia People's Party's (CPP) permanent committee and a close confidant of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The Supreme Court order, which virtually turned the country into a one-party State, follows a prolonged crackdown on dissent in Cambodia. In June 2017, the CNRP assumed control of a third of the country's local administrative bodies. Subsequent to this, the government began a vicious crackdown on the opposition, including the arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha on charges of treason. Reports state that since September 2017, 44 members of the opposition have fled the country in fear of arrest.
The court ruling has meant that Mr. Hun Sen, who has served as the country's premier for the past 32 years, would, effectively, run uncontested in next year's general election. In a televised address yesterday, he further asserted that the election would go ahead as planned and called on politicians from the CNRP, who had not been banned by the Supreme Court, to join the CPP.