Thursday, December 22, 2005

Uh-oh - opposition being harshly suppressed in Cambodia

Just when the rule of law seemed to be taking hold in Cambodia, today we have a BBC story that appears to be a significant step backwards.

Sam Rainsy (who only sounds like the guy who works at the Exxon station on the corner) has been the leading voice of the opposition to the Hun Sen-Prince Norodom Ranariddh coalition government for several years. His political party, the not-very-catchingly-named Sam Rainsy Party, holds a few seats in the parliament, but his primary contribution has been that of a gadfly.

Sam Rainsy has been sentenced in absentia to 18 months in prison for remarks he made about both Hun Sen and Prince Ranariddh. He had claimed that Hun Sen had been involved in a grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy Party rally several years ago, and that Ranariddh had accepted bribes to form the coalition.

This kind of prosecution for "defamation" has become more regular in Cambodia recently. Hun Sen, who has resorted to all sorts of tricks, dirty and not so dirty, to retain power for the past 15 years, is showing no signs of letting go of the reins and letting democracy work in this very sad country.

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