Ahead of elections next year, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with a Cambodian opposition figure accused of treason while in Phnom Penh on Friday. He expressed alarm about the kingdom’s deteriorating democracy.
Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in charge of Cambodia for more than 37 years, making him one of the world’s longest-serving presidents. In a national election held in 2018, his party won every seat.
Additionally, in June, a Phnom Penh court found about 60 opposition figures guilty of treason, including Theary Seng, a dual citizen of the US and Cambodia. This mass treason trial was denounced by rights organizations as being politically driven.
Blinken claimed that while in the Cambodian capital for the Association of South East Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers’ meeting, he raised with Hun Sen his concerns about the failing democracy in the country.
Broadening political involvement would benefit the nation, the secretary of state told reporters on Friday.
Our worries about deteriorating respect for human rights and democratic institutions here in Cambodia are one of the elements that prevent our countries from developing closer ties, he said.
The top diplomat for the United States revealed that he had seen opposition leader Kem Sokha of Cambodia earlier in the day on Friday. Sokha is now facing a treason prosecution that could effectively exclude him from running in the country’s 2019 elections.
Blinken brought up Theary Seng’s situation when speaking with Hun Sen. In the treason case from June, the outspoken attorney and advocate received a six-year prison sentence.
The eldest son of the prime minister, who is presently in charge of the army, has received public support from Hun Sen and his governing party to eventually assume control.
The United Nations Human Rights Office expressed its concern over claims of opposition obstruction in a “paralyzing political environment” two months prior to local elections.
Later, Hun Sen’s political party declared a resounding victory.