The United States vowed to take “concrete steps” against Cambodia on Friday, following a Supreme Court decision to disband the main opposition party, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
The U.S. said the ruling was “based on meritless and politicised allegations” and that 2016’s elections would not be “legitimate, free, or fair.”
“The U.S. will take concrete steps to respond to the Cambodian government’s deeply regrettable actions,” a White House statement said.
The EU also described the upcoming 2018 elections as illegitimate without the CNRP on the ballot and threatened that the “arbitrary exclusion” of the opposition could affect a preferential trade agreement between Cambodia and the EU.
The EU noted that Thursday’s decision to disband the CNRP came on the heels of a months-long crackdown on opposition.
Analysts say media outlets and non-governmental organisations are meant to solidify Prime Minister Hun Sen’s position ahead of elections in July 2018.
“Democracy died in Cambodia today and it’s hard to see it reviving so long as Hun Sen, in power for 32 years, remains as prime minister,” Brad Adams, Asia director of U.S.-based rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said in a statement on Friday.
The court sided with the Interior Ministry, which had accused the CNRP of “conspiring” to carry out a “colour revolution” with the help of the U.S. and with the aim of toppling the government.
It also banned party leader Kem Sokha and former leader Sam Rainsy, as well as 116 other senior CNRP officials, from politics for a period of five years.