By: Suy SE
One of Cambodia’s few remaining unbiased newspapers introduced on Sunday it will close hours after the nation’s opposition leader was arrested for treason, the most recent in a string of blows to critics of strongman premier Hun Sen.
The Cambodia Daily, which is commonly crucial of the federal government, stated Monday’s version could be its final after it was slapped with a multi-million greenback tax invoice that its publishers stated was politically motivated.
The announcement got here after Kem Sokha, head of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), was arrested shortly after midnight on treason charges with Prime Minister Hun Sen accusing him of performing in cahoots with Washington, an escalation of his usually offended rhetoric towards the US.
The Southeast Asian nation has been run for greater than three a long time by 65-year-old Hun Sen, a wily political operator who has lengthy used the courts and strongarm ways to silence critics.
He faces a key check at national polls subsequent yr with the principle opposition celebration gaining in recognition amid mounting anger over corruption and inequality.
A collection of prosecutions have been introduced towards political opponents and rights staff within the final yr, as properly as tax and different investigations of organisations deemed crucial of his administration.
In a press release asserting its closure, the Cambodia Daily stated it had been “destroyed” by the federal government.
“It’s a dark day for press freedom in Cambodia,” editor Jodie DeJonge, instructed AFP.
The paper was arrange 24 years in the past by veteran American journalist Bernard Krisher who just lately bought it to his daughter Deborah Krisher-Steele. It publishes in English however carries some articles in Khmer and is commonly crucial of the federal government.
Last month the tax division stated the paper owned $6.three million in again taxes, with Hun Sen branding the homeowners “thieves”.
The paper stated the determine was “arbitrary” and never based mostly on an audit of its books, with administration accusing the federal government of focusing on it for its crucial reporting.
Much of Cambodia’s media is both owned by folks close to Hun Sen or avoids criticising the federal government.
Former editor Kevin Doyle tweeted: “In closing the Daily, PM Hun Sen is not just silencing a critic, he’s ending an earlier, more hopeful vision of Cambodia’s future.”
– ‘US conspiracy’ –
Kem Sokha’s shock in a single day detention raises the stakes as Hun Sen’s political opponents, NGOs and the crucial press are smothered by courtroom instances and threats forward of the election subsequent yr.
In a press release, Hun Sen’s authorities alleged “a secret plan of conspiracy between Kem Sokha, his group, and foreigners that harms Cambodia”.
The authorities has but to element what Kem Sokha has allegedly carried out that constitutes treason.
But in a speech on Sunday, Hun Sen accused him of working with Washington.
“Behind his (Kem Sokha’s) hand it is still the same, it is America,” he stated.
Kem Sokha is the leader of the CNRP which has been battered by courtroom instances, bans and threats towards its key figures, together with his predecessor Sam Rainsy who fled to France to keep away from charges.
The CNRP referred to as the arrest “politically motivated”.
The arrest got here simply hours after pro-government web site Fresh News ran a report accusing Kem Sokha of discussing the overthrow of Hun Sen with assist from the United States.
Fresh News regularly runs leaks from inside the federal government that usually precede an investigation or arrest.
However Saturday’s report was based mostly on a 2013 speech Kem Sokha gave to supporters in Australia with cameras current.
During the speech he boasted that the US was “advising me about strategies to change the dictatorship in Cambodia”.
Washington has a fancy and fraught historical past with Cambodia, secretly bombing it in the course of the Vietnam War period after which turning into one of many nation’s largest assist donors as it tried to rebuild from the murderous Khmer Rouge years.
Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who defected, portrays himself as the one one that can deliver stability and prosperity to a rustic as soon as ravaged by civil battle and genocide.
In the final decade, Cambodia has change into certainly one of Asia’s quickest rising economies.
But there’s rising anger, particularly among the many youth, over how that wealth is unfold and the cronyism that continues to be endemic below his rule.
In 2013 the opposition events made shock positive aspects, giving Hun Sen his first ever electoral scare.