Trial involving exiled leaders Sam Rainsy and Mu Sochua among several targeting members of the forcibly dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party.
A Cambodian court has convicted 19 opposition politicians – including two prominent leaders in exile – on charges of “incitement” and “conspiracy” and sentenced them to prison, after a mass trial that rights groups have condemned as unfair.
In a decision handed down on Thursday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced the defendants, all members of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party to between five and 10 years in jail.
Rainsy condemned the court’s decision.
“The justice system has again been used as a blunt political took in an attempt to quash opposition to Hun Sen’s dictatorship,” he wrote on Twitter. “Opposing dictators is a duty, not a crime.”
The judge partly suspended the shorter sentences passed on more junior members of the party.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for more than 30 years, began to crack down on the CNRP ahead of the 2018 general elections amid signs it was becoming increasingly popular. Its leader Kem Sokha was arrested in 2017 – he is facing a separate trial on charges of treason, which resumed in January after a two-year hiatus – and the party forcibly dissolved.
“The mass trial and convictions of political opponents on baseless charges is a witch hunt that discredits both the Cambodian government and country’s courts,” Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
“Foreign governments, the United Nations, and donors should call out this attack on the political opposition and Cambodia’s remaining vestiges of democracy.”
During the trial, the prosecutor argued that the group had tried to “overthrow the government” citing a 2019 effort for the party’s exiled leaders to return home. He claimed without evidence that they formed part of a “secret network” that sought to disrupt Cambodia’s economy and use the COVID-19 pandemic to undermine Hun Sen’s government and engineer a popular uprising.
As Judge Ros Piseth read out the verdict, some of the defendants shouted and raised their hands.
“We’re innocent people,” activist Sun Thum said, according to local outlet VOD English. “This is a political matter. It’s politically motivated.”
VOD said there were also scuffles with security guards outside the court where people had turned out to show their support.
The judge issued arrest warrants against the overseas defendants. Rainsy, Sochua and fellow opposition politician Eng Chhay Eang, were previously found guilty of an alleged plot to topple the government last year, and sentenced to prison terms of more than 20 years.
HRW estimates about 60 political prisoners are being held on remand ahead of trial including opposition politicians, activists and trade union members.
A number of mass trials of party members are under way.
The government has also tightened restrictions on civil society, making it more difficult for the country’s more than 5,000 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and associations to carry out their work.
NDP calls Russian sanctions ‘political theatre’ as data shows little action on assets – Global News
“This government constantly pats themselves on the back for adding individuals to the sanctions list,” NDP MP Heather McPherson said Tuesday in the House of Commons.
“The Liberals claim sanctions are a key piece of our foreign response, but there is no enforcement, there’s no investigation and there is almost no seizing of assets.”
The federal government has been announcing sanctions almost weekly that bar people associated with authoritarian regimes from having financial dealings in Canada and from entering the country.
Yet publicly released RCMP data show barely any change in the amount of money frozen in Canadian bank accounts between June and December of last year, despite hundreds of people being added to sanctions lists.
As of June 7, Canada had ordered frozen $123 million in assets within Canada, and $289 million in transactions had been blocked, both under sanctions prohibitions related to Russia.
By late December, the RCMP said $122 million in assets were listed as seized, and $292 million in transactions had been blocked _ despite hundreds more people associated with Russia being put on the sanctions list.
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The RCMP also noted in late December that no banks had informed them of any sanctioned Haitians or Iranians holding assets in Canada.
Meanwhile, parliamentary disclosures requested by McPherson show that Ottawa has still not used a law it passed last June that allows the government to take possession of funds from sanctioned people and divert them to victims of wrongdoing.
The government issued an order for the restraint of property in December to start the process of forfeiting US$26 million held by a firm owned by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, but it has yet to file an application in court.
McPherson argues that Canada is using sanctions as a symbolic tool, without taking the steps to actually disincentivize support for autocracies.
Zelenskyy calls for Olympics ban on Russian athletes amid ‘terror’ in Ukraine
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly responded to the criticism by offering to work with the NDP on using sanctions to forfeit assets and divert them.
“We’re the first country in the world doing this, and we will lead,” she told the Commons.
“We’ve imposed extremely strong sanctions against Russian oligarchs, Belarusian oligarchs, Haiti elite members as well as Iranians.”
Sanctions experts have long argued that Canada lacks the means to properly monitor its regime, such as by tracking financial transactions and following how assets are traded.
For years, the U.S. State Department has deemed Canada to be a “major money laundering country” due to its weak enforcement of laws.
In March 2022, the department included Canada in a published list of 80 countries it considers to have inadequate tracking of financial dealings.
Canada’s new law on forfeiting assets is the first among G7 countries that attempts to seize financial holdings using sanctions law.
Analysts and lawyers have said it marks a major change in how countries use sanctions, which are normally created as temporary measures to try changing behaviour, with the idea of later unfreezing accounts.
The new law instead seeks to punish the people accused of human-rights abuses. The funds can only be used to compensate victims, rebuild affected states or support peace initiatives.
© 2023 The Canadian Press
Philip Steenkamp: Food security should be next on B.C.’s political menu
We got a taste of food insecurity early in the pandemic as grocery-store shelves emptied. The race for the last package of toilet paper or bottle of hand sanitizer got the headlines, but even the availability of household staples like flour and eggs was suddenly in doubt.
Then, just as that was settling down, the November 2021 atmospheric river swept in. Floodwaters overtook huge swaths of Fraser Valley farmland, and drowned cows, chickens, pigs and even bees by the thousands. Landslides and bridge collapses cut off trucking routes and rail lines — and once again, supermarket shelves emptied out.
Today, in the aftermath of an even more devastating atmospheric river and widespread flooding in California — the source of a lot of B.C. produce, especially in the winter and spring — questions are arising of where the next shortages will show up. Even at that, our situation pales in comparison to developing countries that until now relied on wheat from Ukraine. Russia has not only blockaded exports from that country, but is also launching relentless attacks on the energy infrastructure that helps keep food production running.
That may be disheartening to hear, given the many other dangers and challenges we’re facing, but then those crises have more than a little connection to a safe, reliable, affordable supply of food. Climate disruption means more extreme weather events; rising authoritarianism and nationalism threaten to unleash more wars; our global economy, built on assumptions about stability that today seem hopelessly naïve, can be expected to falter again and again.
All of these conditions erode the security of our food supply.
In turn, an insecure supply of food can undermine the stability of governments and local economies, prompt large-scale migrations and humanitarian crises, and heighten conflicts between countries.
Addressing food security requires a broad range of co-ordinated responses at every level, from individual neighbourhoods to international co-operation. We urgently need to have long-overdue conversations about just what that response must look like.
But not all the answers will have to be planetary in scale — or even provincewide.
As you read this, the Giving Garden in the Farm at Royal Roads University is nearly ready for the first harvest of 2023. Driven by Dr. Hilary Leighton, program head in our School of Environment and Sustainability, it is both a living laboratory for Royal Roads students and a growing source of fresh produce for the Greater Victoria community, directly addressing food insecurity in the region.
Meanwhile, Dr. Robert Newell, the new Canada Research Chair in Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainability, is studying the use of systems mapping to show relationships among local farms, transportation networks, grocery stores, communities and key social and environmental issues. His program also looks at sustainability and novel food production methods, such as vertical agriculture (growing crops indoors using stacked shelves) and cellular agriculture (growing meat directly from cell cultures instead of relying on animals).
That can only happen if leaders at all levels start convening the public conversations needed to shape that vision.
If any good is to come from the food supply shocks of the past three years — and the more severe incidents that are sure to come — it’s that they’ve given us all an appetite for those conversations. It’s time for our leaders to get cooking.
Trump 2024 is locked and loaded, analyst says
More than two months after his presidential announcement, Donald Trump now has the key tools he will need to make his entry into the race complete: access to social media.
Recently, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, announced reinstatement of Trump’s social media accounts following a two-year suspension.
The suspension was levied in the aftermath of the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021.
This was certainly good news for the Trump campaign and his legion of loyal and dedicated supporters.
However, as the wreckage inflicted on that cold January day still lingers, political opponents, real and perceived, are bracing for the potential dangers that could lie ahead.
In 2016, Trump used social media to great effect in his bid to win the U.S. presidency. During his tenure in the White House, he often made news and kept the entire media landscape on edge with a robust social media presence. His posts ran the gambit from inflammatory to bewildering.
CLAIMS SHATTERED NORMS OF PRESIDENTIAL ETIQUETTE
The unceasing and outlandish claims made by the former reality television star shattered the norms of presidential etiquette. Even accusing former president Barack Obama of spying on him! Like a maestro leading an orchestra, his cadre of henchmen and followers soon began to play along as if on cue.
Donald Trump, over the years, enlisted a powerful chorus of voices from Congress, the media, state capitals and beyond all belting out conspiracy theories, laced with violent undertones, on one note; one accord; in unison.
The twice-impeached ex-president has access to all the social media tools that not only fuelled his political rise but also served as a catalyst to the growing political violence playing out across the nation.
With 34 million followers on Facebook; 23 million on Instagram; and 87 million on Twitter; Trump has built a formidable and engaged audience that hangs on his every word.
AN ALREADY FRAGILE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE
Showing no remorse and characterizing the suspension as an injustice, the ex-president said on Truth Social, his own social media platform: Such a thing should never again happen to a sitting president, or anybody else who is not deserving of retribution!
Trump has continued his penchant for perceived grievances and victimization exacerbating an already fragile and unstable political landscape. Now, with the ability to enact a mob in 280 characters or less, Donald Trump wields these accounts like a loaded weapon.
Political onlookers are bracing for the onslaught as the ex-president ramps up his presidential campaign. Laura Murphy, an attorney who led a two-year audit of Facebook stated: I worry about Facebook’s capacity to understand the real world harm that Trump poses…
This “real world harm” Murphy describes is already a stark reality. Recently released video footage of the violent attack on the husband of former U.S. House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is sending a collective shiver through the political class.
The assailant, David DePape, 42, claimed: “I’m sick of the insane f——— level of lies coming out of Washington, D.C.” He is charged with attempted murder, residential burglary, false imprisonment and threatening a public official. Some on the right, including Donald Trump Jr., made fun of the attack, sharing an image of a Paul Pelosi Halloween costume that included a hammer, as it was a hammer that was in the assault.
In the aftermath of the recent 2022 midterm elections, the nation breathed a sigh of relief as the results came and went with no acts of violence and the results reported largely without incident. Unfortunately, that moment of euphoria was only fleeting.
Failed GOP candidate, Solomon Peña, was arrested by Albuquerque police accused of paying and conspiring to shoot candidates that won. Prior to the attacks, Peña (like Trump) alleged the election results were fraudulent. An arrest warrant affidavit obtained from police says the suspect “intended to (cause) serious injury or cause death to the occupants inside their homes.”
Trump’s proclivity for subjecting maximum cruelty on others has been a mainstay since he entered politics. His affinity for tyrannical government; fascist and dictatorial leaders; combined with an ambivalence for democratic institutions makes his return to the political arena fraught with peril.
TRUMP FIRMLY BACK IN CONTROL OF SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
In a recent article, columnist Charlie Sykes described Trump’s penchant for violence as: Brutality is an ideology, not just an impulse. Many of the MAGA crowd eagerly subscribe to this ideology. Close confidante and fellow MAGA conservative, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene, said recently at a Republican event in New York, if she had organized the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol “we would have won” and “it would’ve been armed.”
Donald Trump’s inner circle continues to push the big lie and foment violence. Now that Trump is firmly back in control of his social media accounts, nothing stands in his way of once again eschewing political safeguards and standards in favor of amplifying sharp, abrasive, and yes, violent rhetoric aimed at perceived enemies and institutions.
Trump’s hold on rank-and-file Republicans remains just as strong today as it did the day he descended that gold-plated escalator in 2015. His loyal lieutenants continue to engage in violent and inflammatory language and some have even escalated to full-scale physical attacks on their opponents as evidenced by recent events in New Mexico and San Francisco.
Trump 2024 is locked and loaded and many would-be targets are in the crosshairs. By allowing Trump back on social media, companies such as Meta and Twitter might think they are lowering the political temperature. However, Trump’s truculence knows no bounds and could certainly end up backfiring. That fire nearly consumed the nation on January 6. Now, with a second chance, Trump gets to finish what he started.
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