Cambodia’s Supreme Court has dissolved the country’s main opposition party in a ruling likely to cement autocratic Prime Minister Hun Sen’s already firm grip on power.
Thursday’s unanimous ruling by the nine-member court also bans 118 members of the now-defunct Cambodia National Rescue Party from any political activity for the next five years. The court sided with a lawsuit filed by Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party, accusing the CNRP of being involved in a plot to topple the government.
The verdict was announced by Chief Justice Dith Munty, a high-ranking member of the ruling party.
The ruling caps an apparent crackdown on dissenting voices launched by the prime minister ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.
The repressive moves include the arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha on charges of treason, which led half of the party’s lawmakers to flee, and precipitated the closure of The Cambodia Daily, one of the country’s last independent newspapers, after the publishers received an exorbitant overdue tax bill they said was bogus.
Hun Sen has been prime minister since 1985. He and his ruling government were nearly defeated in the last national election in 2013, and support is growing for the opposition, especially among younger Cambodians eager for change.