Cambodia has released 14 members of the country’s dissolved opposition party in the wake of a controversial election that extended Prime Minister Hun Sen’s three-decade grip on power.
The group was released early Tuesday from Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison after receiving pardons from Cambodia’s king. They were convicted for insurrection after taking part in a 2014 street protest that turned violent. They were sentenced to jail terms between seven and 20 years.
The pardons were granted after they issued statements apologizing for their actions.
The 14 were members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, which was dissolved last year by the Supreme Court, clearing the way for Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodia People’s Party to win a clean sweep of all 125 parliamentary seats in last month’s general elections. Nineteen smaller parties participated in the election, but put up only token opposition.
The landslide victory ensures that Hun Sen will extend his 33-year grip on power once the new parliament convenes next month.
The dissolution of the CNRP capped an apparent crackdown on dissenting voices launched by Hun Sen to avoid a repeat of the last national election in 2013, when he and his ruling government were nearly defeated.
The repressive moves include the arrest of CNRP co-leader Kem Sokha on charges of treason, which led half of the party’s lawmakers to flee, and the closure of The Cambodia Daily, one of the country’s last independent newspapers, after the publishers received an exorbitant overdue tax bill they said was bogus.