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Cambodian government critic flees after receiving threats

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A Cambodian political analyst said on Monday he has fled the country after receiving threats since his release from a 1-1/2 year sentence for accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s party of orchestrating the 2016 murder of government critic Kem Ley.

FILE PHOTO: Kim Sok is escourted by police officers at the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, August 10, 2017. REUTERS/Samrang Pring/File Photo

Kim Sok, who has a six-year-old daughter, was released on August 17 and since then has criticized Hun Sen’s appointment to government of some leaders of parties that participated but won no seats in July 29 elections.

He told Reuters that on August 29 he received six anonymous calls in which he was told: “‘I know you have a daughter and if you don’t stop talking, you must be careful.’”

“I and my daughter are seeking asylum in a third country,” he said. “Once my daughter is safe, I will go back to Cambodia and continue my advocacy,” he added.

He declined to say where he had gone but said he had reported the threats to a U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh on August 30. The embassy declined to comment.

Tens of thousands protested the murder of prominent activist Kem Ley, many of whom said they suspected a political motive in his death. A man was jailed for life last year for the killing and testified that he killed Kem Ley over a debt.

Human rights groups and Kem Ley’s supporters said they were sceptical of the convicted man’s testimony. The family said the activist did not owe any money.

Hun Sen, whose Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) swept all parliamentary seats in largely unopposed elections, said on August 29 that Kim Sok must pay a $200,000 (£155,210) court fine dating from his conviction or return to prison.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Cambodian government, said Kim Sok was lying.

“This is his intention to do anything to get asylum abroad without having to care about truth and laws,” Phay Siphan told Reuters. “Like the prime minister has said, if you want to get asylum, just curse him,” he said.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg