Cambodia National Rescue Party deputy president Mu Sochua escaped the country on a flight from Phnom Penh on Tuesday ahead of warnings she would be arrested for conspiring with jailed party leader Kem Sokha to overthrow the Cambodian government, the now exiled lawmaker said.
Speaking to RFA’s Khmer Service from an undisclosed location, Mu Sochua said she feared loss of her freedom at the hands of courts controlled by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party led by Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We can’t live every day under threats like this,” she said, referring to recent vows by Hun Sen to arrest top leaders of Cambodia’s main opposition party, whom he accuses of conspiring with Western countries to end his more than 30-year rule.
“What we want is to be able to answer to impartial courts and to democratic authorities who rule by law, and to be judged according to due legal processes,” she said. “But the law in Cambodia is being used to kill democracy.”
Almost 20 CNRP lawmakers have now fled Cambodia fearing retaliation by Hun Sen following important electoral gains in local elections in June, Mu Sochua said.
“Others will continue to escape, not just our lawmakers but also party activists,” she said.
CNRP leader Kem Sokha was arrested without a warrant in the capital Phnom Penh on Sept. 3 and accused of trying to topple the government with backing from Washington. He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Critics say the move shows Hun Sen is intensifying his attacks on political opponents ahead of national elections scheduled for 2018.
Cambodia’s government has also expelled U.S.-funded NGO the National Democratic Institute (NDI), suspended some 20 radio stations that aired content by U.S. broadcasters Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, and targeted the English-language Cambodia Daily with a hefty tax bill, leading to the newspaper’s closure.
Speaking this week in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, Hun Sen threatened further arrests of CNRP lawmakers and activists, saying the opposition party’s “treasonous activities” reflect coordination among a wider group.
“We won’t stop by arresting just one person, let me tell you,” Hun Sen said, directing his remarks to the CNRP itself. “I hope you get my point.”
“We will not let you destroy the nation or destroy our security through your treasonous activities,” he said.
Reported by Zakariya Tin and Keo Sovannarith for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Sarada Taing. Written in English by Richard Finney.