Cambodian opposition leader arrested for alleged conspiracy

Russia's Washington chancery annex is seen Thursday Aug. 31 2017 in Washington. In an escalating tit-for-tat the United States forced Russia on Thursday to shutter its consulate in San Francisco and scale back its diplomatic presence in Washington and

Speaking to 4,000 Cambodian garment factory workers Sunday, Hun Sen claimed Kem Sokha had colluded with the United States against his government and warned the opposition party it could be dissolved if it defended him, the AP said.

Hun Sen, 65, is determined to extend his three-decade rule and dismantle the burgeoning popularity of the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), who have gained from public anger over inequality and corruption. It raised doubt over whether the Southeast Asian country can hold a fair election.

Heather Nauert, a spokeswoman for the State Department, did not address the allegations against Washington, but expressed "grave concern" over the arrest, saying Kem Sokha "has a long, distinguished, and internationally recognized commitment to human rights and peaceful democracy".

The Cambodian Government described the above act as treason and espionage and said the court will handle this case according to the country's regulations.

Hun Sen was quoted as telling a group of garment factory workers that the "third party" behind the plot was the same as that behind a 1973 coup that is widely believed to have had USA support.

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Police detained Kem Sokha during a midnight raid on his Phnom Penh home, the Associated Press reported.

CNRP gained strength as the opposition party to the ruling Cambodian People's Party in national elections in July 2013 and in municipal elections in June this year.

In the video, Kem Sokha said the Americans had hired academics to advise on strategy to change Cambodia's leaders.

"When we tax them, they said we shut down press freedom", Hun Sen was quoted as saying.

Mr. Kem Sokha's arrest was quickly condemned by opposition leaders and worldwide human rights activists.

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Kem Sokha made no immediate comment and it was not clear if he had been charged or had legal representation at this stage. The National Democratic Institute, a US-funded pro-democracy organization, was shut down and foreign staff given seven days to leave the country. Earlier in the year, it suspended joint military exercises with the United States, which has voiced fears over the human rights situation.

Earlier, it said Kem Sokha's arrest was politically motivated and violated the law because of the immunity granted to elected legislators.

The Cambodia Daily was founded by American journalist Bernard Krisher in 1993 and Hun Sen this year berated some of its journalists as "servants of foreigners".

"This government move follows a number of troubling recent steps, including the imposition of unprecedented restrictions on independent media and civil society".

The government of Prime Minister Hun Sen is ratcheting up pressure on political opponents, critics, the media, and non-governmental organizations ahead of national elections next year.

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Hours after Kem Sokha's arrest on Sunday, the independent Cambodia Daily newspaper announced that it was closing from Monday after 24 years because of the government's demand for millions of dollars in back taxes.

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