Cambodian government accused of 'alarming' crackdown as newspaper closes

Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha arrested: daughter

Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen on Sunday accused the U.S. of master-minding an anti-government plot by Cambodian main opposition leader Kem Sokha, the media reported.

The arrest came just hours after pro-government website Fresh News ran a report accusing Kem Sokha of discussing the overthrow of Hun Sen with support from the United States.

He says the way China tightly controls its Internet and the press, as well as the way the United States is not speaking out in favor of speech right now, may be to blame.

In a statement, Hun Sen's government alleged "a secret plan of conspiracy between Kem Sokha, his group, and foreigners that harms Cambodia". In August, at least 15 radio stations broadcasting content from Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, Voice of Democracy, and other foreign networks were shut down by the government for "violation of contracts" with the information ministry.

The government appeared to have based part of its claims against Kem Sokha on a video clip that shows the opposition leader giving a public speech in which he describes a grassroots political strategy to challenge Hun Sen with USA support. Earlier, it said Kem Sokha's arrest was politically motivated and violated the law because of the immunity granted to elected legislators.

Hun Sen, 65, was first installed as Cambodia's prime minister in 1985 during the Vietnamese occupation of the country.

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In a statement confirming the closure on Sunday, the paper said: "There may well be a legitimate dispute between the tax department and the owners of the Daily over when tax became collectable and in what amount".

Sokha reportedly says in the purported video that "he was trained and received funding from a powerful foreign country to topple the government". "This is a clear crime and there's no need to make further investigation because he has confessed already".

In fact, The Daily's final major story was to break news that the leader of the opposition party had been arrested on charges of treason.

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.

Kem Sokha is the leader of the CNRP which has been battered by court cases, bans and threats against its key figures, including his predecessor Sam Rainsy who fled to France to avoid charges.

Sokha, President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was arrested early on Sunday at his home in Phnom Penh and sent to a prison in Tboung Khmum province, about 150 km from here. He now lives in exile.

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