Courts in Cambodiahave convicted dozens of human rights activists of treason, the latest move in a yearslong clampdown on opponents of longtime Prime Minister Hun Sen. The following day, the ruling Cambodia People’s Party announced a lawsuit against a leader of an opposition party for alleging malfeasance in this month’s local elections.
The move is part of a growing trend to use the judicial system to repress political dissent, which reduces the need to use force in the streets and is becoming a staple of democratic backsliding in the region, Professor John Ciorciari, an expert on the Cambodian court system, told Frontiermarkets.co.
“The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has dispensed with any real pretense of democracy,” Ciorciari said. “It makes little effort to disguise the fact that the courts are an arm of the country’s authoritarian leaders,” he said.
The Cambodia People’s Party holds every seat in the country’s National Assembly. Hun Sen has led the country for 37 years and has signaled his intentions to stay in power until 2028. Recently, Cambodian and Chinese officials broke ground on a Gulf of Thailand naval base that Western officials say will be controlled by China.