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Cambodian Courts Continue to Pursue Cases Against Opposition Political Figures

An opposition lawmaker was sentenced to 18 months in prison for defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen and a land rights activist lost her bid for freedom on Thursday as the Cambodian courts continued to hold their hard line against dissent.

Opposition Senator Thak Lany received an 18 month sentence and an 8 million riel (U.S. $2,000) fine for a speech to her supporters in northeastern Ratanakkiri province in which she allegedly accused Hun Sen of ordering the murder in July of political analyst Kem Ley.

The court also has ordered her to pay 100 riels (25 cents) in compensation to Hun Sen.

Thak Lany’s husband Chhun Bunsan, who watched the court proceedings, said he does not believe his wife would dare to incriminate Hun Sen, telling RFA’s Khmer service a recording of her speech was edited.

“I think the recording of her speech was edited to make it sound like she was saying Hun Sen killed Kem Ley,” he said. “I don’t think she would say that.”

He said Thak Lany is living in political exile in Sweden.

Thak Lany’s attorney Sam Sokong didn’t present evidence during the trial showing the recording was edited, because he has no faith in the lower court. He told RFA he plans show a video clip in which Thak Lany gives the speech before the appeals court.

“We had no faith in the lower court’s handling of the exculpatory evidence, and we were not prepared to submit it earlier,” he said. “We will submit it with the higher court. We are more hopeful that our case is better addressed by the appeals court.”

Thak Lany may have been able to take refuge in Sweden, but Boeung Kak land rights activist Tep Vanny doesn’t have that option. The Cambodian appeals court denied her request to be released from jail.

‘Judges are afraid of losing their jobs’

Investigating Judge Nguoth Ratana ruled out Tep Vanny’s request for provisional release, saying the government feared that she would cause violence.

After the ruling, Tep Vanny accused the government of attempting to silence land rights activists.

“Decisions by these courts is very influenced by the people in power and the rich,” she said. “Judges are afraid of losing their jobs if they don’t follow the orders from the top. Their discretion is compromised by their patronage relation with those in power.”

On Sept. 19 Tep Vanny was convicted of insulting and obstructing public officials and was sentenced to six months in prison in relation to a protest in November 2011 near Hun Sen’s residence.

Her attorney was absent from the courtroom in what some human rights organizations called an abuse of her right to a fair trial.

The seizure of land for development—often without due process or fair compensation for displaced residents—has been a major cause of protest in Cambodia and other authoritarian Asian countries, including China and Myanmar.

In one of the most egregious land grabs, some 3,500 families were evicted from the land surrounding Boeung Kak lake, which was filled with sand to make way for a development project with close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the ruling CPP.

While Tep Vanny and Thak Lany were being sentenced, Buddhist monk But Buntenh refused to show up in court for a hearing on a lawsuit filed against him by Mam Sonando, a popular radio host who last year founded the Beehive Social Democratic Party.

‘I would be seen as abetting the court’

But Buntenh, the founder of the Independent Monk Network for Social Justice and Cambodia’s most prominent activist monk, told RFA the court was the wrong forum for the complaint.

“It was unwise of Mam Sonando to file a lawsuit against me with the court in the first place,” he told RFA. “He should have lodged it with the (Cambodian Supreme Patriarch). It’s very paradoxical that he resorted to Cambodian courts for a solution when for over the past twenty years he has been criticizing these courts as corrupt and unjust.”

But Buntenh’s claim that Mam Sonando tried to purchase a position as a lawmaker and an official with the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) led to the lawsuit.

“If I showed up for the flawed proceedings, I would be seen as abetting the court to further abuse the procedures,” he said. “On top of that I have never received the summons.”

‘Let’s not make this a big deal’

While the legal sparring went on in court, CNRP lawmaker Nhem Panharith told RFA that Kem Sokha, the acting leader of the party, has indicated that he is willing to attend the next plenary session of the Cambodian parliament.

“I have received information from him that he is willing to attend the parliamentary plenary,” he told RFA.

CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun said he would not be surprised if Kem Sokha and other CNRP lawmakers to return to national assembly.

“Let’s not make this a big deal. There will be business as usual whether they attend the plenary or not,” Chheang Vun said. “They should know that as lawmakers they are obliged to serve their constituents. It is as simple as that.”

Reported and translated by RFA’s Khmer Service. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Inter-Parliamentary Union Finds Cambodia is Violating the Opposition’s Rights

Cambodia’s legal war against members of the political opposition is violating the rights of opposition lawmakers, according to a resolution recently adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The Swiss-based organization that aims to promote the rights of parliamentarians to carry out their work without fear of persecution found that Cambodian opposition politicians “face serious violations of their fundamental rights.”

Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have been engaged in legal attacks on more than a dozen opposition lawmakers in an attempt to neutralize their effectiveness before local commune elections in 2017 and national elections scheduled for 2018, the organization said.

“A total of 15 opposition parliamentarians, including the leaders of the main opposition party, continue to face serious violations of their fundamental rights and are therefore being prevented from effectively playing their role as parliamentarians and members of the opposition freely without fear of persecution, particularly given the fast-approaching local and national elections,” the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) wrote in a decision released this week that was approved on Oct. 27.

The IPU singled out a series of legal cases brought against Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmakers that have resulted in jail time and fines. Included in those cases are legal attacks against CNRP leader Sam Rainsy.

‘The ruling party is attempting to weaken and silence the opposition’

Those cases “demonstrate that the ruling party is attempting to weaken and silence the opposition in order to derail the upcoming 2017 and 2018 local and national elections,” the IPU wrote in its report.

While the IPU criticized the ruling CPP, it urged the two sides to resume talks to resolve the political stalemate, a notion rejected by senior CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun.

“The parliament has been created and so has the government, and the roles and responsibilities of lawmakers have already been assigned,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.

“If every lawmaker complied with the parliament’s internal regulations, constitution and the laws of Cambodia, everything would be all set,” he added. “It’s impossible for the CPP to resume talks about the convictions or personal scandals of public figures.”

‘The IPU sees the current cases as politically motivated’

Sam Rainsy supported the IPU decision, telling RFA that the political crisis should to be resolved through political dialogue not through courts.

“The IPU sees the current cases as politically motivated,” he said. “It urges the political parties to solve them through political dialogue. Those who turn their blind eye to such appeal are unwilling to see the current political tension resolved.”

Sam Rainsy is one of the lawmakers targeted by Hun Sen and the CPP-dominated government, with the IPU saying the CNRP leader “has been targeted by an ever-increasing number of court cases initiated against him.”

The opposition leader has been in exile abroad for a year to avoid a two-year prison sentence handed down in a defamation case. It is not the only conviction handed down by the courts.

In the latest case, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found the opposition leader guilty of defamation on Nov. 8 for claiming that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s social medial team bought “likes” on Facebook from “click farms” abroad to increase his support.

At the time of his latest conviction, the opposition leader said he could never win in the Cambodian courts because they are “puppets of the government.”

“The court cases brought against me by Hun Sen’s government are an attempt to refrain me from competing in the next elections,” he said.

Reported by Sarada Taing and Nareth Muong for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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A Fatal Beating Illustrates the Cambodian Police's 'Culture of Impunity'

Local Cambodian police officers accused of beating one man to death and critically injuring another in Kandal province ignored calls by the local police commissioner to answer questions about the assaults, RFA’s Khmer Service has learned.

Kandal Police Commissioner Iv Chamroeurn told RFA on Nov. 1 that the officers accused of the beating twice failed to report to Judicial Police in the district prompting him to ask the prosecutor to take action.

In Cambodia, the Judicial Police Department is in charge of most forms of criminal law enforcement. They are meant to function under the prosecutor-general’s office, but they receive their orders from the national police commander.

On Oct. 21 Chamroeurn Seiha, 26, and his brother-in-law Tith Leap, 22, of Tanung village in Kampong Speu province were stopped and brutally beaten by local police after the two motorbikes he and his friends were riding were stopped by police in Kandal province’s Sa’ang District, witnesses told RFA.

Sa’ang district police officer Chhay Sina overtook Chamroeurn Seiha’s motorbike and Tith Leap sped up and passed them. Words were exchanged, and that’s when the fatal altercation began, Tith Leap told RFA.

“He stopped his motorbike to block us,” Tith Leap said. “Then he pulled his gun and pointed it at me while making a phone call to his colleagues to arrest us.”

Chhay Sina accused the men of robbing people. After the other police arrived and the altercation became a physical one, he added.

Villagers who saw the beating attempted to stop the police officers from attacking the men, but they didn’t listen, witnesses told RFA.

“When they arrived they started to kick and punch us,” Tith Leap said. “My brother-in-law and I were then handcuffed and brought to the police station where we were further beaten very badly by the police officers.”

The police claimed that the two men were beaten by the angry mob because they were suspected of robbing people, but the villagers dispute that account, saying it was the police who beat the two men.

‘He was beaten so brutally’

The villagers told RFA that the men’s injuries did not seem that bad at the scene, but after they were detained at the police station their condition became critical, according to the witnesses.

By about 8 p.m. they were released as villagers in Sa’ang vouched for them. They were taken to a hospital in Sa’ang, but the hospital didn’t admit them because their injuries were too severe.

The men were then transported to another hospital in Takmao, but Chamroeurn Seiha didn’t make it, family members said.

Chamroeurn Seiha’s wife Khuon Sreymom said she is calling for the authorities to speed up their investigation and the arrest of her husband’s killer so that justice is done.

She told RFA that her husband supported the family, and life has become very difficult since his death.

“I felt very sadden to see what happened to my husband,” she said. He was beaten so brutally that his entire body was covered with bruises. His skull and throat were severed.”

Tith Leap’s mother Hem Vann said her son has sustained severe injuries also. He might not be able to live a normal life again.

“I feel much pity for my son,” she said. “He has never been beaten that badly. If he is unable to live a normal life, I will be in a very bad situation financially for I am a widow.”

Cambodian police often act with impunity, and the violence of the police there is a grave breach of human rights, said Am Sam Ath, an official with the human rights organization LICADHO.

“Concrete measures will have to taken by the relevant authorities and the courts to punish the perpetrators and find justice for the victims,” he said. “Authorities have to make efforts to end the culture of impunity.”

The search for justice

While names of Chamroeurn Seiha and Mith Leap are obscure, even to people inside Cambodia, even the famous face obstacles with the police.

Kem Ley is a name that is known throughout Cambodia and to much of the outside world, but the investigation into his murder appears to have languished for months.

Kem Ley, a popular social and political critic, was gunned down in broad daylight on July 10 when he stopped in a Star Mart convenience store beside a Caltex gas station in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.

Although authorities charged former soldier Oeuth Ang with the killing, there has been little official word about the investigation since his arrest.

Many in Cambodia doubt the government’s story that Kem Ley was killed by the former soldier over a debt, and Kem Ley’s family and supporters tell RFA they are planning to deliver a petition to Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Ministry of Justice and foreign embassies to push for a transparent and genuine investigation into his murder.

People who live near the location where Kem Ley was slain are afraid to talk about his death, but they have told RFA they have no faith the Cambodian courts to find justice for the activist.

Reported for RFA’s Khmer Service Thai Tha and Sothearin Yeang for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Cambodia and Myanmar View Trump's Triumph

Cambodian strong man Hun Sen issued an “I-told-you-so” message in reaction to Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president as a spokesman for the democratically-elected president of Myanmar said he expected relations between Naypyidaw and Washington to grow stronger.

The Republican nominee and president-elect has vowed to reorder the U.S. place in the world as he has rejected the internationalism practiced by his predecessors in both parties, rip up trade agreements and draw back from American military commitments overseas.

Asia’s longest-serving despot gloated over the victory in a message posted on his Facebook page.

“Several days day ago, when I publicly expressed my support for your candidacy, some people verbally attacked me by saying that only someone like me would support a dictator like you,” he wrote. “Now it is unequivocal that Americans have wanted you as their leader. I was therefore not mistaken to endorse you.”

The head of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy used the election as a reminder to a country run by Hun Sen for 31 years that functioning democracies peacefully change leadership.

“The U.S. election results reflect real democracy at work,” Sam Rainsy said Wednesday on RFA’s Khmer-language Live-TV Show. “Americans very regularly change their President. Presidents can serve only two terms.”

That’s a vastly different reality than in Cambodia, he said.

“On the contrary in Cambodia, the prime minister, who has clung on to power for several terms, is a dictator,” Sam Rainsy explained. “The Cambodian National Assembly is nothing but a puppet while the courts are dummies. It is paradoxical that Hun Sen endorsed Donald Trump while he has acted against the principles of democracy which are fully embraced by Americans.”

Myanmar’s president expects more

While Myanmar has seen a democratic transformation with the election of the country’s de factor leader Aung San Suu Kyi, some officials there didn’t expect much change.

“U.S. policy toward Myanmar will not change much, I think, but Hillary Clinton has more interest in Myanmar,” said Myint Kyaw, a member of the Myanmar Press Council trade union who experienced censorship and intimidation under the country’s previous military junta.

U.S. Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel echoed the sentiment.

“We’ve had a long tradition under both Republican and Democratic presidents of supporting the people of Myanmar,” he said. “While the details of the policies of the new president will depend on who that person is, the general approach of staying engaged and supporting the Myanmar people will continue.”

A spokesman for Myanmar President Htin Kyaw said he thought relations between the two countries would improve with Trump in the White House.

“I believe that the relationship between the USA and Burma can only get better under President Trump,” said President’s Office Deputy-director Zaw Htay, according to the Democratic Voice of Burma.

“Now the Republicans will dominate both the U.S. Senate and Congress, and their candidate also will become president.” he added. “Looking to the past, it was Republicans such as such as (Sen.)  John McCain (R-Ariz.) and (Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) who led the push for democratization in Burma.”

Crossing the 38th parallel

North Korea had yet to react to Trump’s victory, but the official outlet DPRK Today in May praised Trump’s international stance, saying North Korea’s slogan “Yankee Go Home” may actually become a reality.

“Trump said ‘he will not get involved in the war between the South and the North,’ isn’t this fortunate from North Koreans’ perspective?” according to an article on the editorial.

Referring to Trump’s speech in March threatening to withdraw U.S. forces from South Korea if it does not pay more of its defense costs, the North Korean editorial welcomed the Trump with open arms.

“Yes do it, now … Who knew that the slogan ‘Yankee Go Home’ would come true like this?” wrote. “The day when the ‘Yankee Go Home’ slogan becomes real would be the day of Korean Unification.”

While North Korea hailed Trump, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said she expected close cooperation between Seoul and Washington to continue.

“The Government of the Republic of Korea, upon Mr. Trump’s election, will continue to closely cooperate with the next U.S. administration for the peace and prosperity in the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia region, as well as the world, through further deepening and developing the ROK-U.S. alliance,” Park said in a statement.

When asked by The New York Times if he would withdraw United States forces from Japan and South Korea if those countries do not increase their payments to cover the costs of those troops he answered:

“Yes, I would. I would not do so happily, but I would be willing to do it… We cannot afford to be losing vast amounts of billions of dollars on all of this… And I have a feeling that they’d up the ante very much. I think they would, and if they wouldn’t I would really have to say yes.”

In a May interview with Reuters, he said he is willing to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un directly in an effort to try to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear program, proposing a major shift in U.S. policy toward the isolated nation.

“I would speak to him, I would have no problem speaking to him,” he told Reuters.

Reported and Translated by RFA’s Myanmar and Khmer Services. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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Cambodian Court Finds Opposition Leader Guilty of Defamation

A Cambodian court on Tuesday found opposition party president Sam Rainsy guilty of defamation for claiming that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s social medial team bought “likes” on Facebook from “click farms” abroad to increase his support.

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered the head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to pay 10 million riels (about U.S. $ $2,500) and 15 million riels (about $3,720) in fines and compensation.

Judge Im Vannak also said the court’s decision would be broadcast for three days through the media, according to a report in The Cambodia Daily. He also said Sam Rainsy had damaged the honor of Som Soeun, a government minister involved in Hun Sen’s social media campaign who filed the defamation lawsuit in March.

Sam Rainsy told RFA’s Khmer Service during a live interview that strongman Hun Sen “should be liable for compensating the Cambodian people for all his lies and purchasing ‘likes’ for his Facebook [page].”

“American companies and Facebook can confirm that Hun Sen’s Facebook is full of fake ‘likes,’” he said. “He is again a coward for fabricating his popularity and asking his petty people to sue me in his stead.”

Sam Rainsy, who has been in exile abroad for a year to avoid a two-year prison sentence handed down in a separate defamation case, has other cases pending against him.

He went on to say that it was “hilarious” that Hun Sen’s Facebook page, which is available only in the Khmer language, had received almost a million likes from people in foreign countries such as India where Khmer is not spoken.

“How could about a million Indians know and support Hun Sen when they don’t even speak the language on his Facebook posts?,” asked Sam Rainsy “So, the bottom line is millions of his like have been purchased.”

Reporters at The Phnom Penh Post in March analyzed the countries of origin for “likes” on Hun Sen’s Facebook page after he had surpassed 3 million fans and found that only 20 percent of them originated in Cambodia. Their analysis showed that in the previous month more than half the “likes” were from abroad—mostly from India and the Philippines—calling into question their legitimacy.

‘He is afraid to face me’

The opposition leader said that he could never win in the Cambodian courts, despite presenting strong evidence, because they are “puppets of the government.”

“The court cases brought against me by Hun Sen’s government are attempted to refrain me from competing in the next elections,” Sam Rainsy said, in a reference to Cambodia’s next general elections in 2018.

“Hun Sen is a coward,” he said. “He is afraid to face me. However, I will do my best to make sure I can return to Cambodia to join the upcoming elections.”

Sam Rainsy’s lawyer told Reuters that the opposition plans to appeal the court ruling.

On Monday, Sam Rainsy rallied to the defense of CNRP Senator Hong Sok Hour who was sentenced to a seven-year prison term for posting a disputed copy of the border agreement between Cambodia and Vietnam on Facebook in 2015.

In an open letter, Sam Rainsy accused strongman Hun Sen of using the courts to punish a political opponent and “pervert the election process by creating and maintaining an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.”

Deputy CNRP party leader Kem Sokha has been hiding out in the party’s headquarters in Phnom Pehn for several months because of an alleged affair with a young hairdresser a five-month jail sentence for refusing to appear in court to testify in a related case.

The CNRP sees such court cases by Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) as attempts to disrupt its activities in the run-up to local elections next June and general elections the following year that could bring an end to the prime minister’s 31 years in power.

CNRP candidates will run against those of the CPP in the general elections, seeking to prevent Hun Sen from winning a fifth term in office.

Reported by Vuthy Huot RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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Cambodian Lawmaker Sentenced in Border Treaty Dispute

Exiled Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy rallied to the defense of an opposition lawmaker sentenced to a seven-year prison term on Monday for posting a disputed copy of the border agreement between Cambodia and Vietnam on Facebook in 2015.

On Monday the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Senator Hong Sok Hour guilty of forging and publishing public documents, and of incitement to cause instability, when he posted a disputed copy of a 1979 Cambodia-Vietnam treaty on Facebook that said the two countries had agreed to dissolve their mutual border.

Hong Sok Hour and his legal team refused to show up at the court on Monday.

One of his attorneys, Meng Sopheary, told RFA’s Khmer Service Hong Sok Hour and his legal team boycotted the proceedings because they are unjust, as the team was prevented from presenting evidence that showed the lawmaker was innocent.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge Ros Piseth said the court found moot Hong Sok Hour’s requests to summon experts on border issues.

It’s unclear if Hong Sok Hour will pursue an appeal.

“We will certainly be guided by his excellency Hong Sok Hour as to whether he will file an appeal against the court verdict,” Meng Sopheary told RFA.

Senior CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay was unsurprised by the court’s decision, saying the courts are a tool used by Hun Sen and the CPP to undermine the opposition.

“The court, which is a symbol of justice, is unjust itself,” he said. “Hong Sok Hour’s case is not different from many other politically trumped-up cases where justice is always taken for granted. That further sheds light on the perception that Cambodian courts are corrupt and used as a political tool.”

‘Another act of political repression’

In an open letter published by Sam Rainsy on Monday, the CNRP president accused Prime Minister Hun Sen of using the courts to punish an opponent and “pervert” the election process.

“Seven months before the June 2017 commune election this verdict is another act of political repression in order for Hun Sen’s CPP (Cambodian People’s Party) to pervert the election process by creating and maintaining an atmosphere of fear and intimidation,” Sam Rainsy wrote in the letter.

Cambodia’s local elections are set for 2017 and the national elections are scheduled for 2018. In the disputed 2013 elections, the CPP lost 22 seats in its worst showing since 1998.

On Monday Sam Rainsy accused Hun Sen and the CPP of “distorting the facts” in the case, saying the treaty Hong Sok Hour posted had been published before 2015, and that it was a poor translation that inaccurately substituted the word “dissolve” for the word “redefine.”

“There is evidence that the whole incriminating document (full text of the 1979 treaty including the ill-translated word in article 4) was not produced by Senator Hong Sok Hour,” Sam Rainsy wrote. “In fact, it had been posted, viewed and shared on the Internet for many years before the accusation of forgery was raised by Hun Sen against Hong Sok Hour in August 2015.”

Sam Rainsy blamed the court for failing to do its due diligence.

“Appropriate technical research – that the Cambodian tribunal could easily do by itself – leads to at least one Internet site showing that the incriminating document posted by Senator Hong Sok Hour on 11 August 2015 and deleted two days later, had been circulating on the Web long before its posting by Hong Sok Hour and it originated from a source totally independent from Hong Sok Hour, who is therefore unfairly accused of forgery,” Sam Rainsy wrote.

Vietnam and Cambodia have had a fraught relationship for centuries, but the animosity with Hun Sen dates from the 1979-89 Vietnamese occupation that ended the murderous rule of the Khmer Rouge.

Hun Sen was appointed prime minister during that period when Hanoi had control over Cambodia.

As Cambodian foreign minister and then prime minister, Hun Sen played an important role in the 1991 Paris Peace Talks that brokered peace among Cambodia’s warring factions.

Since then questions have been raised about Hun Sen’s relationship with Vietnam, and the political opposition has attempted to use the Cambodian people’s distrust to their advantage.

In October Hun Sen ordered police, immigration and aviation authorities to “use all ways and means” to prevent Sam Rainsy from returning from what was a self-imposed exile. He has pledged to return to the country before the elections.

Another ‘Black Monday’

While the court was sentencing Hong Sok Hour, about 20 land activists representing Borei Keila and Phnom Badh communities launched their 27th Week of protests under the Black Monday Campaign in Phnom Penh.

Sar Sorn, who represents the Borei Keila activists, dismissed government accusations that the activists are attempting to foment a “color revolution.”

“How is it possible for ordinary people like us to stage a so-called color revolution when we are financially stranded, unarmed and we don’t have the armed forces to back us up,” she told RFA.

Hun Sen has suggested that his political opponents are seeking a “color revolution,” a reference to pro-democracy movements that sprung up in Ukraine, Georgia and other countries where protesters rallied under colored banners.

On Thursday he issued a call to the nation’s armed forces to put down any so-called “color revolution.”

“All armed forces are obliged to absolutely ensure that Cambodia is free from any color revolutions,” the Cambodian strong man wrote in a Facebook post.

“Such a revolution will harm people’s happiness and peace in Cambodia,” he wrote. “Armed forces shall protect the legitimate government.”

Civil society groups and their supporters began staging “Black Monday” protests soon after officials from the human rights group ADHOC were arrested in connection with the government’s wide-ranging probe into an alleged affair between CNRP leader Kem Sokha and a young hair dresser.

In addition to the ADHOC arrests, the Cambodian authorities also arrested an election official. At the same time a U.N. official was also charged.

While Black Monday began as an attempt to pressure the government over the arrests, it has morphed into a more generalized campaign against government abuses, including land confiscations and demands for a thorough investigation into the murder of government critic Kem Ley in July.

The seizure of land for development—often without due process or fair compensation for displaced residents—has been a major cause of protest in Cambodia and other authoritarian Asian countries, including China and Myanmar.

Sar Sorn dismissed Hun Sen’s characterization of the movement and vowed to continue.

“We are not deterred by the arrests and suppression by the authorities,” she said. “We will continue our fight.”

Reported by Sel San for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.

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