Cambodia arrests prominent union leader for ‘incitement’

Cambodia police have arrested a prominent union leader for alleged incitement over long-running border demarcation issues with Vietnam, they said Saturday, the latest crackdown against opposition voices in the kingdom. 

Earlier this month Rong Chhun, the outspoken leader of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, released a statement accusing the government of “irregularities” at Cambodia’s eastern border, which he said caused locals to lose their farmland.

Opposition leaders have long accused strongman premier Hun Sen of ceding territory to Vietnam, harnessing the unresolved border issues between the two countries to whip up nationalist sentiment against his adminstration.

Chhun was arrested late Friday for “his border comments”, National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said.

A court had issued a warrant for Chhun for “issuing untrue information that harms social security,” Khoeun added.

Chhun faces up to two years in prison if found guilty of incitement. 

Since the July 2018 election — where Hun Sen’s party won every parliamentary seat in a vote without a credible opposition — authorities have stepped up arrests of former opposition party members, human rights defenders and dissenting voices. 

Hun Sen is one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, maintaining a 35-year grip on power with methods that critics say include jailing political opponents and activists. 

He rose to power during Vietnam’s 1979-1989 occupation of Cambodia after Hanoi invaded to oust the Khmer Rouge regime.