THE most senior opposition leader in Cambodia is reportedly evading authorities who stormed his party’s headquarters and his car in an attempted arrest this morning.
Local reports said Kem Sokha, who is Cambodia National Rescue Party’s acting president and No. 2 opposition leader, is in a “safe place”, according to a party official.
The opposition has called on the international community to condemn the police’s attempts to nab Sokha.
Witnesses said armed security forces surrounded the car of the opposition leader this morning in an apparent attempt to apprehend him.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who is in exiled in France, said police also entered the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) headquarters looking for his deputy. However, Sokha was not in the car or at the headquarters, and the policemen left empty-handed.
The U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh today issued a statement calling on its citizens to avoid the area of the party headquarters, citing the activities of armed police deployed there.
“U.S. citizens are reminded of the Embassy’s existing guidance that even gatherings intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and have the potential to escalate into violence without warning,” the embassy said in the statement.
— US Embassy Cambodia (@USEmbPhnomPenh) May 26, 2016
The crackdown Thursday came hours after the Sam Rainsy criticized the government’s plans to hold elections next year. He said the polls would be neither free nor fair since Prime Minister Hun Sen has thrown several opposition members and rights activists in jail.
CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Sokha’s car was stopped on a Phnom Penh street by a group of special police force members brandishing guns.
The Phnom Penh Post reported CNRP parliamentarian Eang Chhay Eang as saying Kem was in a “safe place” without divulging his whereabouts.
Kem had also allegedly missed an appearance at Phnom Penh Municipal Court this morning.
The party, Chhay Eang said, has urged the French Embassy to censure the the authorities’ attempted arrest. He claimed that Sokha, as a politician, was granted immunity from such arrests.
— (((Daniel Quinlan))) (@danieljquinlan) May 26, 2016
“He has immunity, so they cannot arrest him unless they have a warrant for his arrest, and they have to strip his immunity first,” Chhay Eang was quoted saying.
Sokha was recently linked to allegations of a sex scandal, which he and his supporters claim are politically motivated.
Additional reporting from Associated Press