Cambodian ruling MPs move to isolate opposition figurehead

Breaking News July 10, 2017 15:29

By Agence France-Presse

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PHNOM PENH - Cambodian ruling party MPs on Monday voted to effectively sever ties between the beleaguered opposition and its figurehead, as Prime Minister Hun Sen presses home his authority ahead of key polls next year.

In a legal amendment, lawmakers agreed to ban political parties from "using the voice, images or written documents... of convicts prosecuted in criminal or civil cases for political interests," according to a draft of the clause seen by AFP.

The move appears to directly target the opposition's self-exiled former leader Sam Rainsy, who has a string of convictions in Cambodia that he says are politically motivated.

Rainsy has already resigned from Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), but still plays a behind the scenes role for an opposition that aims to end Hun Sen's three decade rule in next year's general election.

The tweaked law also bans parties from "openly or tacitly conspiring with convicts" with the threat of suspension for up to five years or even abolition by the courts.

The amendments still need approval from the senate and the King's assent -- both formalities.

Opposition lawmakers boycotted the parliamentary vote, decrying the amendments as politically motivated.

In a Facebook post on Sunday ahead of the vote, Rainsy accused Hun Sen of being afraid of him, "to the extent that just my name, photo, voice or even my shadow causes him insomnia".

In last month's local elections the CNRP used images of Sam Rainsy on party banners.

Rainsy has been at the forefront of the kingdom's opposition movement for two decades.

Hun Sen faces crunch national polls next year and has dramatically ramped up his rhetoric in recent months.

Last month he called on critics to "prepare coffins" and warned he would eliminate "100 or 200 people" if stability was threatened.

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