Cambodian Rights Activist and 55 Others Face Trial as Crackdown on Dissent Intensifies

Theary Seng, a Cambodian lawyer and human rights activist, is facing treason charges in a trial scheduled for Nov. 26 for speaking critically against the Cambodian government and supporting democratic reform. The charges are part of a larger crackdown on activists and journalists viewed as opponents of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Seng is a refugee who, after earning her law degree at the University of Michigan, chose to return to Cambodia in 2004 to support the development of her country’s democracy. She is the founder of the Cambodian Center for Justice and Reconciliation and the founding director of CIVICUS: Center for Cambodian Civic Education. For more than 10 years, her organizations have worked to educate Cambodians in democratic principles and the civics of Cambodia’s political system.

The criminal charges are the most recent sign that democratic institutions in Cambodia are deteriorating rapidly. Hun Sen has been prime minister for more than 35 years and has revealed a willingness to keep his seat by any means necessary. Numerous journalists have been imprisoned since a contested election in 2017 under the country’s criminal “incitement” law, which allows the state to fine and imprison its detractors.

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