Cambodia releases opposition leader after two years of house arrest

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Cambodia on Sunday ended house arrest of opposition leader Kim Sokha, more than two years after he was arrested and charged with treason, but will remain banned from politics or leave the country and no charges have been dropped.

Cambodia has come under pressure to ease political repression as the EU considers pushing ahead with cuts that could undermine trade preferences.

“As an innocent, he was jailed for two years,” Kim Sokha said on Facebook. “I continue to demand that the charges against me be dropped.”

“I expect today’s decision to be a first step, but I and many Cambodians who have lost their political freedoms still need realistic solutions and justice.”

Kim Sukha, 66, was arrested in 2017 and authorities banned the Cambodian National Salvation Party before a general election last year swept by Hun Sen’s party, but Western countries saw it as a farce.

Kim Sokha was charged with conspiring with foreigners to overthrow Hun Sen, a charge he described as nonsense.

Phnom Penh’s municipal court said in a statement that Kim Sokha could leave his home, but could not engage in political activity or leave the country.

“He can travel anywhere but he can’t leave Cambodia,” Justice Ministry spokesman Qin Malin told Reuters. “That’s because he was cooperating with the authorities.”

The easing of restrictions on Kim Sokha comes a day after Cambodian veteran Sam Rainsy, 70, traveled from self-imposed exile in Paris to Malaysia, saying he wanted to return to Cambodia to rally opponents against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s authoritarian rule. Kim Sokha and Sam Rainsy have set up an opposition party that is now banned by the authorities.

Hun Sen, 67, a former Khmer Rouge leader, has ruled the country of 16 million people for more than 34 years with an iron fist and has the ability to manipulate his opponents and turn them against each other and divide them.

The US embassy described the easing of the restrictions as a “limited step forward” and called on the authorities to drop the charges “which the majority consider politically motivated”.

“The United States calls for the unconditional release of all those arbitrarily or unlawfully detained, including journalists, civil society activists, supporters and members of opposition political parties,” the embassy said in a statement.

“The release of Kim Sokha from house arrest is a last-minute attempt to avoid European anger,” said Phil Robertson of the US-based Human Rights Watch. For trade preferences.

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