Cambodia Disqualifies Main Opposition Party Ahead of Election

The most prominent opposition figure to remain in Cambodia, Kem Sokha, was tried on a charge of treason and sentenced in March to 27 years of house arrest. In February, the government shut down a popular news outlet, Voice of Democracy, claiming it had published a false report. It was one of the few remaining publications to provide critical coverage of the government.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission said at the time that “these actions seriously undermine the civic and political space, including the environment for free and fair elections in July.” Last month, Human Rights Watch accused the Cambodian government of stepping up verbal attacks that had led to violent assaults on members of the Candlelight Party.

“Dismantling opposition parties and disqualifying, assaulting and arresting their members before election day means that there won’t be any real election at all,” it said in a statement.

Members of the Candlelight Party said the Election Commission had demanded original copies of official party documents, which they said they no longer had because they had been seized in a police raid in 2017.

After its ruling, the Election Commission said it had approved the registration of more than 10 other parties. These parties included those aligned with the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, or small, obscure parties that do not pose a serious electoral challenge to the prime minister.

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