Opposition senator arrested in Cambodia for Facebook posting

AP , Saturday 15 Aug 2015

Cambodian authorities arrested an opposition senator Saturday, two days after Prime Minister Hun Sen accused him of treason for comments posted on Facebook.

Armed police handcuffed Hong Sok Hour, who was the subject of a two-day manhunt as a result of the comments that criticized a 36-year-old border agreement with Vietnam.

Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Khieu Sopheak said the senator was arrested in an early morning raid at the home of an opposition lawmaker on the outskirts of the capital where he was hiding. He was taken to police headquarters for questioning before heading to a court to face charges, the spokesman said.

More than 100 protesters gathered at the Phnom Penh courthouse to demand the senator's release, a call echoed in a joint statement from the minority group of opposition senators. The statement expressed "deep disappointment" over the arrest, which they said ignored Hong Sok Hour's parliamentary immunity and his right to freedom of speech.

The arrest was the latest in a string of attacks on Hun Sen's political opponents. In recent weeks, Hun Sen has used his public speeches to deliver what amounts to arrest orders, which are generally carried out quickly.

On Thursday, Hun Sen accused Hong Sok Hour of posting material about the 1979 border agreement. Hun Sen was foreign minister at that time in a government installed by a Vietnamese occupation force that invaded Cambodia to oust the murderous Khmer Rouge regime.

"This is a crime that amounts to treason," Hun Sen said during a speech at a graduation ceremony. "An act of treason like this cannot be tolerated."

The opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party has been seeking political benefit by accusing Vietnam of encroaching on Cambodian soil — a politically sensitive topic that has ramped up tensions at the border.

The opposition says the courts, under Hun Sen's influence, are pressuring them to drop the border issue by jailing their activists on insurrection charges in connection with a violent protest last year.

Hun Sen has been in power for almost three decades, and while Cambodia is formally democratic, his government is authoritarian and known for intimidating opponents.

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