Cambodian opposition leaders questioned in court over rallies

January 15, 2014 - 11:35:51 am
PHNOM PENH:  Cambodia’s opposition leaders were questioned in court yesterday in connection with recent protests against strongman premier Hun Sen -- a case they denounced as politically motivated.

Prosecutors at Phnom Penh Municipal Court spent several hours grilling Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha about unrest that led to a bloody police crackdown on striking garment workers.

No charges have been brought against them.

“The problem is a political one. As long as there is no political solution yet, there will be a judicial issue pending,” Rainsy said at a press conference after the closed-door hearing.

A few thousand opposition supporters rallied outside of the court to show their support for the pair, who told a cheering crowd they would continue their struggle for justice after alleged vote fraud in July 2013 elections.

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has boycotted parliament since the polls, but Hun Sen appears unfazed by the political deadlock.

He reiterated yesterday that he would not resign, and told the opposition party to wait for the next election in five years’ time.

“Step down? Never. It will be in a long time,” Hun Sen said in a national radio speech, adding that he was elected constitutionally.

The 61-year-old premier, who has ruled for 28 years and has vowed to stay in power until he is 74, has faced mounting criticism over his rights record as well as accusations of excessive force against demonstrators. 

Earlier this month police opened fire on striking garment factory employees demanding a minimum wage of $160 per month for their work in an industry which supplies brands including Gap, Nike and H&M, killing at least four civilians.

Security personnel armed with shields and batons also chased opposition protesters -- including monks, women and children -- from their rally base in a park in Phnom Penh.

The government says the rallies were illegal and has indefinitely banned opposition demonstrations in the capital.