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A top Cambodian opposition politician is charged with inciting disorder for criticizing government

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — The leader of a recently formed Cambodian opposition party has been charged with inciting social disorder, his lawyer said Saturday, in the third major legal action this month targeting critics of the government of Prime Minister Hun Manet,

Sun Chanthy of the Nation Power Party, established late last year, was formally charged Friday by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and sent to pre-trial detention in the northwestern province of Pursat, according to Choung Chou Ngy. He said his client could be sentenced to six months to two years in prison if convicted, and that on Monday he will seek his release on bail.

Cambodia’s government has long been accused of using the judicial system to persecute critics and political opponents. The government insists it promotes the rule of law under an electoral democracy, but political parties seen as mounting strong challenges to the ruling Cambodian People’s Party have been dissolved by the courts or had their leaders jailed or harassed.

Sun Chanthy, 41, was arrested on Thursday at Phnom Penh International Airport after returning from a trip to Japan where he held a meeting with several hundred Cambodian overseas workers. He spoke there about the desire for the government to allow more freedom for opposition parties.

In remarks that were shown on his Facebook page, he also criticized Hun Manet’s government for policies that forced people to fall into debt to banks, while at the same time running up the nation’s debt to foreign countries.

Sun Chanthy also reportedly criticized the government’s system of issuing special cards to poor families that allow them to receive social welfare handouts.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement that he was charged for his