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One-party Cambodia's grim message

China-backed authoritarianism on the rise as US retreats

| China
Police officers stand guard at the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh on Nov. 16 during a hearing prior to the ruling to dissolve the main opposition party.   © Reuters

With the stroke of a judge's pen, political opposition to Cambodia's long-ruling prime minister, Hun Sen, has effectively ceased to exist. On Nov. 16, the country's Supreme Court did what most observers expected and ordered the dissolution of the popular Cambodia National Rescue Party, two months after the arrest of its leader, Kem Sokha, on treason charges. The court also handed out five-year political bans to 118 leading CNRP members.

The ruling, which will see the CNRP stripped of its seats in the National Assembly, was the culmination of a fluctuating crackdown that escalated sharply with Sokha's arrest in the early hours of Sept. 3. He has since been accused of conspiring with the U.S. government to overthrow Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party, which has ruled Cambodia since 1979.

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