Critic of Cambodia PM Hun Sen detained

Cambodian commentator Kim Sok (centre) talks to supporters on his way to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Feb 17, 2017.
Cambodian commentator Kim Sok (centre) talks to supporters on his way to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Feb 17, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) - A prominent critic of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was detained on Friday (Feb 17) to face charges of trying to incite chaos and defamation, a court in Phnom Penh said.

Opponents and critics of the veteran prime minister have come under increasing pressure in the run-up to local elections this year and a general election next year in the Southeast Asian country.

Kim Sok was detained after appearing in court to face a claim for $500,000 in damages filed by Hun Sen after comments he had made pointing a finger at the government over the murder of a commentator and activist last year.

The court said Kim Sok had been charged with incitement to cause chaos in society and public defamation. He did not have a lawyer and he was not able to speak to reporters before being taken to Prey Sar prison.

Hun Sen's lawyer welcomed the decision.

Defamation cases have been used against several opponents of Hun Sen, who has been in power for 30 years but only just managed to win the last general election in 2013.

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy, living in exile to escape a series of defamation convictions, resigned from his party last weekend.

That followed an announcement from Hun Sen of a planned legal change to dissolve any party whose leader had been convicted of a serious offence.