Asia

Cambodia PM stirs political pot with pardon for opponent

FILE - In This Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, file photo, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Deputy President Kem Sokha gestures during a speech at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni’s pardon Friday of Kem Sokha allows him to avoid five months in prison for failing to answer a summons in a case involving his alleged mistress. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)

FILE - In This Friday, Sept. 9, 2016, file photo, opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party Deputy President Kem Sokha gestures during a speech at the party headquarters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodia's King Norodom Sihamoni‚Äôs pardon Friday of Kem Sokha allows him to avoid five months in prison for failing to answer a summons in a case involving his alleged mistress. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith, File)  (The Associated Press)

Cambodia's king has pardoned the deputy leader of the country's opposition party, taking the action at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen in a complicated maneuver that could have a major political impact.

King Norodom Sihamoni's pardon Friday of Kem Sokha, deputy head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, allows him to avoid five months in prison for failing to answer a summons in a case involving his alleged mistress. Kem Sokha has claimed his legal problems were concocted for political reasons.

Kem Sokha's situation contrasts with that of opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who faces a two-year prison term and is barred from returning from self-imposed exile. The two opposition figures are rivals as well as allies, and Hun Sen has a history of successfully dividing his opponents.