Cambodia: 37 Pro-Democracy Activists on Trial for Treason

By Laurence Humphries, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 2 October 2022,


On 15th September, 37 supporters of the banned Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), a bourgeois-liberal party, were put on trial for allegedly fomenting acts of treason against the bonapartist regime of the Hun Sen clique. Hun Sen is an ageing Stalinist-capitalist dictator who has been in power for over 37 years. He rules Cambodia as a one-party state since the 2019 general election when all opposition parties were banned from participating and trumped-up charges were brought against them.

Hence, the ruling party – the Cambodian People’s Party – is the only legal party. Initially, it was a Stalinist party which run the country as a proxy of Vietnam during the 1970s and 1980s. today, it is a fully-fledged capitalist bourgeois party.

“Cambodian opposition party activists and former lawmakers have been put on trial for treason, the latest mass trial of opponents of the country’s long-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen. A total of 37 defendants were summoned to the court in the capital, Phnom Penh, on Thursday, though only three were physically present as the majority were either in exile abroad or in hiding, defence lawyer Sam Sokong said. The hearing was the third mass trial targeting members of the popular opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, which in 2013 came close to defeating Hun Sen’s party. The Clooney Foundation for Justice, established by lawyer Amal Clooney and her actor husband George Clooney, said on Thursday that the conviction in an earlier mass trial that involved Cambodian-American lawyer Theary Seng was “a travesty of justice”. “Theary Seng was convicted not because of what she did, but because she supported democratic change in Cambodia,” the foundation said in a statement. Expressing political views should not have been the basis for criminal charges, let alone a conviction and prison sentence. Cambodia must stop misusing its laws to criminalize dissent,” the foundation said” [1].

It is well known that the Hun Sen regime is using courts to silence any opposition to his rule. When the CNRP was threatened with dissolution in 2017, the case was heard by the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Dith Munty, a member of the leadership of Hun Sen's party.

The CNRP has been led by Sam Rainsy who is now in exile in the United States. It has substantial support from the popular masses for their campaign for democratic rights in Cambodia. Hun Sen who is now 70 years old and intends to hand over his powers to his son Hun Manet, a lieutenant general who also leads his father's personal bodyguard unit.


The Covid 19 Sars Virus Used as a Bonapartist Measure


The RCIT has shown that the COVID-19 Sars virus has been used in a number of countries as a counter-revolutionary instrument against the masses. It is clear that in Cambodia and other Asian countries the lockdowns and restrictions have been used to quell and stop popular protest against bourgeois regimes. Recently various liberal associations have been trying to collect names of people facing food shortages. The response of the regime has been to accuse these supporters of breaking curfews and in breach of Covid 19 regulations!

“Vorn Pao was distraught when one of his association’s workers was detained in May this year while collecting the names of families living along the Thai-Cambodia border who were facing food shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The association wanted to ensure hungry families got the support they needed, but the authorities saw the situation differently. He was accused of violating the [COVID-19] law as he went to some areas that are banned,” said Pao, 46 the head of Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association, IDEA, an association set up to help people who work in the informal economy. Kang Nakorn was detained for five hours and was only allowed to leave after he signed a document promising not to collect names again and inform officials if the communities were having problems. He was then sent to complete a 14-day quarantine for the coronavirus. “He’s still monitored by the authorities every second,” Pao said. In recent years, non-government workers and community workers have been facing similar restrictions from the government. While Cambodia has more than 5,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and associations, their ability to carry out their work has been increasingly hampered as the government has cracked down on critics and sought to control the country’s political and civic space ever more closely.” [2]


Inter-imperialist rivalry


Cambodia, a former Stalinist state, has very close relations with China. The latter is, as the RCIT has analysed in many documents, a key imperialist power. Hence, Cambodia is affected by the acceleration of the rivalry between the United States and China over. The Hun Sen regime is currently helping China to build a military base at Ream. This of course has angered Washington which is now applying sanctions and an arms embargo against Cambodia. Cambodia and China are also one of the few allies of the military junta in Myanmar which has killed and imprisoned thousands of pro-democracy activists.

“The United States has announced new restrictions on Cambodia, including an arms embargo, citing the “growing influence” of the Chinese military, as well as corruption and human rights abuses. The State Department imposed an arms embargo while the Commerce Department announced new trade restrictions on military and dual-use items that may be used for civilian or military purposes, on December 8. Commerce has placed new restrictions, including end-use and end-user restrictions, on exports and reexports to Cambodia, and in-country transfers within Cambodia, of sensitive items subject to the Export Administration Regulations,” the department said in a statement. Peter Kucik, a sanctions expert, says this means even third countries now cannot sell certain products they have purchased from the US to Cambodia. “Even if you’re not a US entity you could violate US law by selling something on,” he said, adding that the EAR restrictions also apply to “dual-use” technology. “Hypothetically, a device that could have a perfectly civilian use, but could also have a military purpose, would be restricted because if it’s used by the wrong party, it could be used for military purposes,” he explained. The US has long been concerned with a possible Chinese military presence in Cambodia, first questioning developments in Koh Kong, and then at Ream Naval Base in neighbouring Preah Sihanouk province.” In 2020, US-funded structures at the Ream base were demolished and the Wall Street Journal reported a secret agreement to allow China use of the base for 30 years, which Cambodia has denied.” [3]


For revolutionary overthrow of the Hun Sen regime


The RCIT has argued for a revolutionary insurrection against the Hun Sen Bonapartist regime and puts forward the following policies to assist and take the masses and poor peasants forward in their struggle against this one-party state.

“The crisis of the Bourgeois capitalist regime in Cambodia is reflected by the emergence of the third great depression and inter-imperialist rivalry between China and the United States. Hun Sen, a close ally of imperialist China is beset with debt and huge economic crisis and is reliant on China to bail it out. Cambodia is a semi-colonial country with agriculture as its main industry. The regime has been shunned by the western imperialists because of its human rights abuses and violations and extreme political repression. However, it is obvious that the Western imperialist hypocrisy shouldn't be the measurement for democracy. It is rather an indicator if a certain semi-colonial country is more of an ally to Western or to Eastern imperialism”. [4].

* For protests and strikes up to an indefinite general strike to bring down the Hun Sen government! For a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly!

* Armed self-defense guards and units must be set up to defend workers, the poor and the dispossessed from police and state attacks!

* For the expropriation of all multinational corporations! Nationalize them under workers control without compensation!

* For the cancellation of all debts in Cambodia to all financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund!

* For a Revolutionary Workers Party – nationally and internationally!



1) Mass trial of Cambodian opposition members charged with treason | News | Al Jazeera

2) Cambodia ‘bleeding’ as space for civil society shrinks | Human Rights News | Al Jazeera

3) US tightens curbs as Cambodia moves closer into China’s embrace | Politics News | Al Jazeera

4) Cambodia: The Hun Sen Regime has had over 121 Human Rights Activists arrested - RCIT - Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (