PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — A lawyer for Cambodia’s military filed a lawsuit against former opposition leader Sam Rainsy on Thursday, a day after the prime minister said he should be charged with treason over a social media post.
Lawyer Vong Pheakdey said the complaint filed Phnom Penh Municipal Court accuses Sam Rainsy of inciting the military to not follow orders, insulting military leaders and causing depression of the armed forces. He urged the court to “strongly punish” Sam Rainsy.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Sam Rainsy called on soldiers not to obey any “dictators” if they are ordered to shoot innocent people. He also mentioned that Egypt’s former leader was thrown from power by the armed forces.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled for more than 30 years, took issue with the post and said his former political foe should be charged with treason.
The move comes amid an intense push by Hun Sen’s government to neutralize political opponents and silence critics ahead of an election next year, often through the country’s pliant courts.
A court last month ordered Sam Rainsy’s former party, the country’s only legitimate opposition, to be dissolved on the grounds that it was plotting to overthrow the government.
Sam Rainsy has been in self-imposed exile since late 2015 to avoid a deferred two-year prison sentence for criminal defamation. He has been the target of several lawsuits by Hun Sen and his ruling party.
Kem Sokha who took over the opposition party earlier of this year is now detained on treason charges and awaiting trial.
The government has also intensified restrictions on civil society groups and independent media outlets.
The campaign, which means Hun Sen will face no serious challengers in next year’s vote, has prompted international condemnation.
The U.S. announced Wednesday it will restrict visas for Cambodians “undermining democracy.” The State Department said it was a direct response to “anti-democratic actions” by the Cambodian government but did not disclose which individuals would be affected.