23 May 2024

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – Hundreds of supporters of the leader of Cambodia’s main opposition party Kem Sokha gathered outside his house on Monday after he was released on bail after spending more than a year in jail on treason charges.

“He was released on bail and he is under monitoring by the court,” government spokesman Phay Siphan told Reuters.

Kem Sokha’s daughter, Kem Monovithya, said her 65-year-old father has been placed under house arrest and was in poor health and needed medical attention.

“He has high blood sugar and he needs a long overdue surgery on his left shoulder,” she said.

Long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen had been under pressure to release Kem Sokha following a July general election won by his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).

Kem Sokha, leader of the now-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was arrested and accused of treason last September as part of a government-led crackdown against critics, including the CNRP.

He had been in pre-trial detention since then, held at a remote prison near Cambodia’s border with Vietnam.

Cambodia’s Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP last year at the request of Hun Sen’s government in a ruling that supporters of the CNRP said was politically motivated.

Former CNRP president Eng Chhai Eang wrote on his Facebook page that Kem Sokha was released from prison and “has arrived at his home”. CNRP deputy president Mu Sochua said Kem Sokha had arrived home “a few hours ago”.

“We don’t know much more,” she told Reuters.

Hundreds of supporters and media gathered outside Kem Sokha’s Phnom Penh home on Monday. The gates to his home stayed closed and a lawyer for Kem Sokha said he would not be meeting with supporters anytime soon.

“Under these circumstances, to all supporters, please understand that he can’t meet you,” Chan Chen told reporters gathered outside the house.

Hun Sen’s CPP won all 125 parliamentary seats in the July vote, which the United Nations and some Western countries have said was flawed because of the lack of a credible opposition, among other factors.

The CNRP, which had 118 of its members banned from politics for five years following the party’s dissolution, had urged supporters to boycott the vote, which it said was a farce.