Cambodian opposition resumes parliamentary boycott after 'threats'

October 7, 2016 3:37 AM EDT

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen (L) arrives before a plenary session at the National Assembly of Cambodia, in central Phnom Penh, October 7, 2016. REUTERS/Samrang Pring

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By Prak Chan Thul

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - Cambodia's opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) resumed a months-long parliamentary boycott on Friday despite promising to return to parliament, after party members said they had received threats from the ruling party.

The CNRP said this week it would end its boycott, sparked by what it considers trumped up charges against its leaders, and return to the National Assembly.

But CNRP lawmakers said they had received threats from members of Prime Minister Hun Sen's ruling party over protests planned in Australia against the visit of Hun Sen's son, Hun Manet, by members of Cambodia's community there.

"There was a positive sign that the CNRP members of parliament would be able to attend parliament but today, we did not," CNRP lawmaker Yim Sovann told reporters.

Yim Sovann said that threats were made against party officials. He did not specify the threats or who he believed made them.

The CNRP said it was not involved in the Australian protests. Ruling party lawmaker Sok Eysan denied that threats had been made.

Tension between the ruling Cambodian People's Party and the CNRP has risen in recent months, with the opposition complaining of a crackdown on critics in a bid to intimidate it before a general election in 2018.

CNRP's top leader is in self-exile to avoid arrest over a case he says was raked up for political reasons, while Kem Sokha, the acting leader, had stayed at the party's headquarters since May 6 to avoid what he said were separate trumped-up charges.

Authorities did not arrest Kem Sokha on Wednesday when he emerged from months of being holed up at the party's headquarters, in what opposition members said was a sign political tension had cooled.

Hun Sen said on his Facebook page on Friday that Friday's parliamentary session went ahead despite the opposition boycott.

(Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Nick Macfie)

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