PHNOM PENH, May 5 (FN) — Cambodia has defended the recent arrests of opposition politicians and human rights defenders, saying that judicial actions taken against them were to enforce the rule of law.

"The judicial actions which have been taken so far are neither a cynical act of malice nor manipulation of the judiciary to undermine the opposition's role but rather an action to enforce the rule of law," Foreign Ministry Secretary of State Ouch Borith said in a joint press statement released to the media on Thursday after an European Union-Cambodia Joint Committee meeting here on Wednesday.

His remarks were made after Ugo Astuto, deputy managing director of the European External Action Service to Asia and Pacific, urged the Cambodian government to create and maintain an environment in which all political parties and civil society can operate freely and without fear.

"We raised our concerns about the independence of the judiciary and the fairness of law enforcement, and specifically about the recent arrests of civil society representatives, and we called for their release," he said.

Recently, two opposition politicians had been arrested for falsifying a Cambodia-Vietnam border treaty and accusing the Cambodian government of using fake border map with Vietnam.

Also, an opposition commune chief and five human rights activists were arrested last week over claims they convinced the alleged mistress of opposition party vice president and lawmaker Kem Sokha to deny a sexual relationship.