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Cambodia targets 140 opposition figures to silence dissent - U.N.

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GENEVA (Reuters) – Cambodian authorities have questioned, summoned or detained more than 140 members of the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in an escalating suppression of dissent, two U.N. human rights experts said on Wednesday.

U.N. special rapporteurs Rhona Smith and David Kaye, mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council to investigate human rights in Cambodia and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, respectively, said the authorities appeared to be making “an attempt to intimidate or silence political opinion”.

The opposition party supporters were questioned in relation to gatherings and comments made in support of Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy, two leaders of the CNRP, the only opposition party in the National Assembly until a court dissolved it in late 2017.

“We are concerned about the use of criminal law to target free speech, both offline and online,” they said in a statement, adding that some of the detainees had posted videos on Facebook.

Many of the summonses appeared to breach the right to due process and a fair trial, and some of those detained had been charged with “incitement to commit a felony”, which was not appropriate for expressing political support, they said.

The statement did not specify the time frame within which the 140 people had been questioned and detained.

In February the European Union began an 18-month process that could lead to the suspension of Cambodia’s duty-free trade access over its record on human rights and democracy.

The EU acted after elections maintained veteran Prime Minister Hun Sen in power and gave his party all parliamentary seats. He has led the Southeast Asian country since 1985.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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