PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — A Cambodian political analyst was arrested Friday based on a criminal complaint by Prime Minister Hun Sen that he had defamed him in a radio interview.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court accepted charges of defamation and inciting chaos against Kim Sok and put him in pretrial detention, said its spokesman, Ly Sophana. He could face up to two years in prison if convicted. Hun Sen is also seeking $502,500 in compensation.
Kim Sok last week gave an interview to the Cambodian-language service of U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia that Hun Sen felt implied his government was behind the killing last year of another political analyst and critic of the government, Kem Ley. The trial for the lone suspect is set to begin next month.
Hun Sen’s government in the past year has put increasing legal pressure on its critics and political opponents, keeping them tied up in court, sending them fleeing into exile, or sometimes jailing them. The courts are widely considered to be under the sway of Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party
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Nest week, the National Assembly is expected to pass a law that will restrict political parties and would dissolve them if they violate the rules.
These actions by Hun Sen and his party are seen as an attempt to shore up their strength ahead of local elections this year and a general election in 2018.
Hun Sen has been in power for three decades and has announced his intention not to step down. The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party mounted an unexpectedly strong challenge in the 2013 election.
About 200 supporters joined Kim Sok as he walked about 5 kilometers (3 miles) to answer his summons to the court. He told reporters he was not scared by Hun Sen or the prospect of prison, especially if an unjust law was applied against him.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, a long-time Hun Sen loyalist, said on his Facebook page that Kim Sok’s remarks could not be tolerated because the ruling party’s reputation had been impugned by the suggestion that it was involved in murder.