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More Cambodian Opposition Members Charged With Insurrection

A supporter (L) holds up portraits of opposition lawmakers of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) who were charged with leading an insurrection movement during a rally in front of Phnom Penh Municipality Court in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 17, 2014.

A court in the Cambodian capital has formally charged two more opposition members with insurrection and incitement in the wake of violent clashes between protesters and authorities.

The violence came earlier this week after supporters of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) turned on district security guards who had barred them from entering Freedom Park.

Long Ry, one of the two men ordered to remain in jail Friday, appeared outside the court momentarily.

“Don’t worry. I am OK. Continue to fight for democracy in Cambodia,” he said.

Nuth Rumdoul, the other party member charged, told VOA Khmer at the court he had not incited violence at Freedom Park and had come willingly to be questioned.

Kong Pisey, a defense lawyer for the men, said the courts had failed to arrest or question anyone from the security forces also involved in Tuesday’s clashes.

“The Cambodian government should be responsible for both sides," he said.

Six other opposition members were arrested and charged earlier this week. Seven of the eight in custody were elected to parliament last year, although none of them have taken their seats as part of the political standoff with the ruling party over vote fraud allegations.

About 100 demonstrators gathered near the court to call for the release of all eight members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, including Mu Sochua, a senior member who holds dual US-Cambodian citizenship.

Analyst Lao Monghay says the arrests of the opposition members are likely to be used as leverage by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in political negotiations over election reform.

“This is a crucial challenge for the CNRP to handle and to ensure that it can still maintain its unity and still have people in the leadership position to replace those in jail,” he said.

The opposition has boycotted the government since July 2013 elections, claiming they were marred by fraud. Pro-opposition demonstrations led to a brutal crackdown in January, followed by a public ban on assembly that was at the center of Tuesday’s scuffle.

Those charged face up to 30 years in prison for “insurrection” and “incitement” under Cambodian criminal codes.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Khmer service.

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