PHNOM PENH: Cambodia’s government has ramped up use of the courts to harass political activists and rights defenders ahead of elections, Amnesty International said on Tuesday, warning the climate of fear was likely to get worse. Millions of Cambodians will head to the ballot box on Sunday for local polls across more than 1,600 communes – an early litmus test for next year’s crunch general elections. The impoverished Southeast Asian kingdom has been run for more than 32 years by strongman prime minister Hun Sen, one of the world’s longest serving leaders. But in 2013 his ruling party suffered a surprise setback when the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) made huge gains and nearly won. Since then the authorities have embarked on what Amnesty described as “a systematic campaign, using the criminal justice system to harass and intimidate” opponents.