Cambodia begins treason trial of 37 opposition figures

Cambodian activists and former opposition lawmakers accused of trying to help an exiled political candidate return home stood trial on treason charges Thursday with few of the defendants in attendance.

Former opposition leader Sam Rainsy and several top leaders of the disbanded Cambodia National Rescue Party were among those absent, being either in exile or in hiding to escape what they deem to be political persecution. Just three of the 37 defendants showed up for the hearing in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, defense lawyer Sam Sokong said.

The CNRP was disbanded just ahead of the 2018 general election by a court that ruled the opposition party had plotted to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen, whose authoritarian rule has kept him in power for 37 years. Cambodian courts are widely believed to be under the influence of Hun Sen, and the disbanding of his party’s main rival allowed his party to sweep all of the seats in the National Assembly.

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