GENEVA: The United Nation’s human rights office on Friday denounced the arrests of Cambodian opposition politicians and urged authorities in the Southeast Asian nation to investigate the violence that led to their detention.
The UN is “deeply concerned” about the clashes that broke out on Tuesday between security guards and opposition supporters at a rally in Phnom Penh, leaving dozens injured, spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said. “We are particularly alarmed at the ongoing arrests of leaders of the Cambodia National Rescue Party following the violence,” she added. Shamdasani urged the Cambodian authorities “to launch a prompt, effective, impartial and transparent investigation and to ensure those responsible for these violent incidents are held accountable.”
Eight opposition politicians have been arrested in relation to the demonstration, which was held to protest the closure of Phnom Penh’s main designated protest site, known as “Freedom Park”. The insurrection charge carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years. “We are concerned about the very serious charges which were brought against them, including ‘insurrection’, given the widely observed efforts by opposition leaders to calm the protesters and stop the violence during the clashes,” Shamdasani said.
“Any politically motivated charges must be dropped immediately.” The opposition deputy leader, Kem Sokha, has also been summoned for questioning. Freedom Park was launched in 2010 as a designated area for people to air their grievances, but it has been sealed off with razor wire barricades since May.
Strongman premier Hun Sen faces mounting criticism by rights groups over the suppression of street protests intended to challenge his nearly three-decade rule. The opposition has boycotted parliament since a contested election last year which triggered allegations of vote-rigging. The UN called on all sides “to exercise maximum restraint and to resume negotiations in order to end the political deadlock.”
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