Cambodia’s authoritarian leader will end like Mugabe, says opponent

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Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen will end his political life like Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, exiled former opposition chief Sam Rainsy told Reuters in an interview on November 24. He also called for Western states to impose targeted sanctions against the country.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was banned at the government’s request last week, deepening Hun Sen’s fight with Western donors who accuse him of demolishing democracy in the country he has ruled for over 32 years.

“Cambodia is at a tipping point. The people are fed up with Hun Sen, and what is happening in Zimbabwe is inspiring,” Rainsy said.

“Mugabe has fallen and it will soon be the turn of Hun Sen, who has become unacceptably anachronistic,” he added.

Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe from independence in 1980, stepped down on November 21 after the army seized power and the ruling party turned against him.

In Cambodia, Hun Sen’s government in the past months was busy silencing the opposition ahead of next year’s general elections. On November 16, the CNRP was finally banned after its leader Kem Sokha was arrested in September on charges of treason for an alleged plot to take over the country with the help of the US.

Closures of newspapers and radio stations followed, and in the most recent move, Hun Sen on November 26 called for the closure of one of the country’s main human rights groups because it was founded by Kem Sokha.

Rainsy, who announced his return to politics on November 15, described the party ban as “just on paper.” He said the opposition needed to demonstrate that it continued to garner “strong support” after winning some three million votes in the 2013 elections, and push Cambodia’s main western donors to shy away from the current government.

“What is important is to show Hun Sen that what he did was unacceptable. The world is not going to do business as usual with this government… and needs to tell him it would never recognise a government that came out of these elections,” he said.

Western countries have condemned the current government’s crackdown on the opposition, while civil rights groups and independent media and have called for the release of Kem Sokha to allow credible elections. Washington has said it is cutting planned aid for holding elections and will take further steps.

Rainsy said the US and European Union should initially withdraw all assistance for the elections and impose targeted sanctions ranging from visa bans to asset freezes. He stopped short of calling for economic sanctions, saying that this could be used further down the line.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen will end his political life like Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, exiled former opposition chief Sam Rainsy told Reuters in an interview on November 24. He also called for Western states to impose targeted sanctions against the country.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen will end his political life like Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, exiled former opposition chief Sam Rainsy told Reuters in an interview on November 24. He also called for Western states to impose targeted sanctions against the country.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was banned at the government’s request last week, deepening Hun Sen’s fight with Western donors who accuse him of demolishing democracy in the country he has ruled for over 32 years.

“Cambodia is at a tipping point. The people are fed up with Hun Sen, and what is happening in Zimbabwe is inspiring,” Rainsy said.

“Mugabe has fallen and it will soon be the turn of Hun Sen, who has become unacceptably anachronistic,” he added.

Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe from independence in 1980, stepped down on November 21 after the army seized power and the ruling party turned against him.

In Cambodia, Hun Sen’s government in the past months was busy silencing the opposition ahead of next year’s general elections. On November 16, the CNRP was finally banned after its leader Kem Sokha was arrested in September on charges of treason for an alleged plot to take over the country with the help of the US.

Closures of newspapers and radio stations followed, and in the most recent move, Hun Sen on November 26 called for the closure of one of the country’s main human rights groups because it was founded by Kem Sokha.

Rainsy, who announced his return to politics on November 15, described the party ban as “just on paper.” He said the opposition needed to demonstrate that it continued to garner “strong support” after winning some three million votes in the 2013 elections, and push Cambodia’s main western donors to shy away from the current government.

“What is important is to show Hun Sen that what he did was unacceptable. The world is not going to do business as usual with this government… and needs to tell him it would never recognise a government that came out of these elections,” he said.

Western countries have condemned the current government’s crackdown on the opposition, while civil rights groups and independent media and have called for the release of Kem Sokha to allow credible elections. Washington has said it is cutting planned aid for holding elections and will take further steps.

Rainsy said the US and European Union should initially withdraw all assistance for the elections and impose targeted sanctions ranging from visa bans to asset freezes. He stopped short of calling for economic sanctions, saying that this could be used further down the line.

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