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45 nations urge Cambodia to hold free and fair elections


PHNOM PENH: Forty-five countries called on Cambodia to reinstate the main opposition party, release its jailed leader and ensure that a July general election is free and fair.

A statement on the human rights situation in Cambodia read by New Zealand on behalf of a group of 45 countries, including the United States, Germany, Australia and United Kingdom, said previous optimism had been “replaced by deep concern” regarding a decline in civil and political rights in Cambodia.

The statement, which was read to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, urged Cambodia’s government to reinstate the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and all of its elected members.

Dozens of opposition lawmakers were banned when Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP last year in a ruling that was widely condemned by the international community.

That decision followed the arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha last September.

Kem Sokha has been charged with treason, specifically of colluding with Americans to overthrow the Cambodian government.

He denies the charges and the US embassy in Phnom Penh has also denied the accusation.

Kem Sokha faces 30 years in prison if he is convicted.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia for 33 years.

He is a former Khmer Rouge cadre who defected from the genocidal group and helped drive it from power in 1979, and is credited with helping Cambodia achieve economic growth, but has been criticised for his crackdown on critics and the media.

“We call on the Royal Government of Cambodia to take all measures necessary, before it is too late, to ensure that the 2018 elections are free, fair and credible,” the statement said. — Reuters

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