[00:00.00]A Cambodian opposition lawmaker says she fled the country to avoid arrest.
[00:07.85]She accuses the government of continuing a campaign of repression against her party’s leadership.
[00:18.28]Mu Sochua told Reuters news agency she decided to leave Tuesday after learning she might be arrested.
[00:29.75]It is not clear where she has gone.
[00:33.52]Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned of strong action against any politicians linked to a treason case against opposition leader Kem Sokha.
[00:49.98]Sokha leads the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
[00:57.75]He was charged with treason and detained.
[01:03.27]Cambodian officials accuse Sokha of planning to overthrow the government.
[01:10.06]CNRP officials accuse Hun Sen of ordering the arrest of its leaders and taking steps to prevent the party from operating.
[01:22.03]Hun Sen is a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
[01:30.07]The 65-year-old ruler has led the country for 32 years.
[01:35.94]A general election is planned for next July.
[01:41.06]The CNRP says almost half of its opposition party lawmakers have either left Cambodia or are in jail.
[01:51.67]A recent legislative amendment permits the government to end political parties for national security reasons.
[02:02.39]Mu Sochua wrote Wednesday in a note to The Associated Press, “The situation is very serious and has direct impact on 2018 elections.”
[02:16.21]She continued, “I no longer feel safe inside the country. My voice needs to be heard inside and outside.”
[02:26.57]She told Reuters she thinks the international community needs to act to “save democracy” in Cambodia.
[02:35.78]She said, “The time for statements has passed. It’s time for sanctions, targeted sanctions. Also suspension of technical aid to the government of Cambodia.”
[02:51.19]The lawmaker suggested sanctions could include visa restrictions on top Cambodian officials.
[02:59.48]But she added that any restrictions should not target the exports of clothing.
[03:06.35]Those exports – most of which are sent to the U.S. and European Union – provide work for hundreds of thousands of Cambodian workers.
[03:18.05]In answer, a government spokesman said there was no reason for any country to place sanctions on Cambodia.
[03:27.89]“This is a sovereign state and it will protect its sovereignty,” the spokesman said.
[03:35.57]He said he could not comment on possible future arrests because they are handled by the judiciary.
[03:44.18]Human rights groups say Hun Sen’s government uses its control over the judicial system to frighten its political opponents and activists.
[03:55.88]The U.S. State Department reported in 2016 of major human rights problems in Cambodia.
[04:04.58]Phil Robertson is deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
[04:10.56]He commented on the situation in a statement released Wednesday.
[04:16.25]He said if CNRP leaders are forced out of Cambodia before next year’s election, it would, in his words, “effectively mean the death of Cambodian democracy.”
[04:30.95]He said no one doubts that Hun Sen can order immediate violence by the military and police.
[04:38.80]In his words, Hun Sen, “controls all the levers in Cambodia’s kangaroo courts.
[04:46.72]The 2018 election is going to be neither free nor fair under these circumstances.”
[04:54.76]I’m Bryan Lynn.