Cambodia’s parliament votes to prosecute opposition leader

This file photo taken on June 4, 2017 shows Kem Sokha (C), leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), showing his ink-covered finger after voting at a polling station in Phnom Penh. (AFP)
Updated 11 September 2017
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Cambodia’s parliament votes to prosecute opposition leader

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s parliament voted on Monday to allow the prosecution of opposition leader Kem Sokha on treason charges that have been criticized by Western countries and are dismissed by his party as nonsense.
Kem Sokha’s arrest on Sept. 3 marked an escalation in a crackdown on critics of Prime Minister Hun Sen ahead of an election next year in which he could face the toughest electoral challenge of more than three decades in power.
Kem Sokha’s Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) boycotted the parliamentary vote, but it passed easily because Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has a majority. The vote was passed with 67 out of 123 voting in favor. None opposed it.
The vote was specifically on whether to prosecute Kem Sokha and it was unclear what it meant for the status of the parliamentary immunity from prosecution that he technically gets as an elected member of parliament.
The evidence presented against Kem Sokha so far is a video recorded in 2013 in which he discusses a strategy to win power with the help of unspecified Americans. His lawyers have dismissed the evidence as nonsense and said he was only discussing election strategy.
National Assembly President Heng Samrin said the vote allowed the government “to proceed with the case of arresting, detaining and charging Kem Sokha.”
Parliamentarians from the opposition party said they would go to the prison where Kem Sokha is being held to demand his release. Security was increased at the prison, several hours drive from the capital Phnom Penh near the border with Vietnam.
Hun Sen, a 65-year-old former Khmer Rouge commander, has ruled Cambodia for more than 30 years and said last week that he planned to stay in power for another decade.
Western countries and human rights groups have raised doubts as to whether next year’s election can be fair after the arrest of Kem Sokha and a crackdown on the opposition, activists and independent media. But Hun Sen has support from his main ally, China.


Nine Iranians detained for alleged drug smuggling in Sri Lanka

Updated 2 min 26 sec ago
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Nine Iranians detained for alleged drug smuggling in Sri Lanka

  • Nine Iranians were caught with 107.22 kg of heroin onboard a trawler bound for the country on Monday

COLOMBO: A Sri Lankan court remanded nine Iranians in custody after they were caught with 107.22 kg of heroin onboard a trawler bound for the country on Monday.

Colombo Magistrate Lanka Jayaratne permitted the Police Narcotics Bureau (PNB) to detain and interrogate the suspects, and ordered it to submit a report to the court on the progress of the investigation.

The vessel was tracked on Sunday morning by a joint operations team comprised of PNB agents, a police special task force and the Sri Lankan navy ship Suranimala off the southern coast of Galle.

Security forces seized the vessel and arrested the nine Iranians, after which the suspects and boat were transferred to PNB custody in the capital.

At a press briefing on Sunday night, Police Superintendent Ruwan Gunasekara said that 99 packets of heroin had been found hidden in four fertilizer bags onboard the boat, and that the suspects had posed as fishermen.

He added that the trawler had been at sea around 14 days, and that on seeing the approaching Suranimala, the crew had dumped an estimated 500 kg of heroin into the water. Mobile and satellite phones had also been found and confiscated.

“It was a joint operation and a great victory in combating the drugs menace,” Lt. Cmdr. Isuru Sooriyabandara said.

As the suspects were unable to communicate in English, the PNB said it would seek assistance from the Iranian Embassy in Colombo to help with translation. Embassy sources, meanwhile, claimed that the nationalities of the nine detainees had not been confirmed.

Early this year, a 24-year-old Iranian woman was arrested by the PNB at Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo for smuggling cannabis.