Mon the 5th Waning Moon of Kattikā B.E.2559, November 30, A.D.2015 Year of the Goat
Jakarta, 30 November 2015 – The Cambodian government must immediately reinstate Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) President Sam Rainsy and Vice President Kem Sokha to their positions in the National Assembly, drop all charges against Rainsy, and take measures to ensure the security and freedom of opposition MPs and activists, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today.
The collective of regional lawmakers warned that recent events have contributed to a deteriorating political climate in Cambodia, damaging prospects for a democratic future for the country.
“The situation is extremely concerning to parliamentarians from across Southeast Asia,” said APHR Chairperson and Malaysian MP Charles Santiago.
“The international community, including ASEAN, must make clear that these actions are unacceptable—for the sake of Cambodia and the wider region. If collective pressure does not mount against the Cambodian government, other regional leaders will feel empowered to act in a similarly hostile and arbitrary manner toward their critics.”
APHR praised the European Parliament’s approval of a resolution on 26 November calling on the Cambodian government to end persecution of opposition parliamentarians, and urged all international actors to take concrete measures to support freedom of expression and renounce intimidation and violence.
On 16 November, Sam Rainsy was stripped of his position as a member of parliament. The unilateral move by ruling party MPs followed the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s issuance of a warrant for Rainsy’s arrest, in relation to a 2008 defamation case brought by Cambodian Foreign Minster Hor Namhong.
Two weeks earlier, CNRP Vice President Kem Sokha was removed from his position as First Vice President of the National Assembly, following another unilateral vote by ruling party parliamentarians. The 30 October vote came just days after two CNRP lawmakers were attacked and beaten outside the parliament building in Phnom Penh by a group of pro-government demonstrators.
APHR noted that these moves have coincided with an increase in threats and verbal attacks against the opposition by Prime Minster Hun Sen and other ruling party officials. They also followed the 21 July sentencing of 11 CNRP members to lengthy prison terms for their involvement in a 2014 protest and the 14 August arrest of CNRP Senator Hong Sok Hour, who was charged with treason for a Facebook post.
“These events are not isolated incidents, but appear instead to be part of a broader effort by the ruling party to undermine and dismantle the opposition,” Santiago said.
“These politically motivated decisions confirm the extent to which the legislative and judicial branches in Cambodia are regularly used as tools of the Prime Minister and his cohorts to threaten and silence opposition voices.”
As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Cambodia has an obligation to guarantee full rights to participate in political life, APHR said.
“The Cambodian government is failing to live up to its international human rights obligations, including the need to protect the physical security of opposition members and allow them to freely express their opinions,” said Santiago.
ASEAN MPs urged international actors to consider imposing targeted sanctions on key regime figures implicated in abuses and to reconsider political and economic partnerships with the Cambodian government, including military training exercises and proposed trade deals.
“It is imperative that ASEAN and the wider international community take clear action in opposition to these attacks and intimidation. They should also support efforts to ensure that free and fair elections are able to proceed in Cambodia as scheduled in 2018,” said CNRP parliamentarian Mu Sochua, who is also a member of APHR.
“The future of Cambodian democracy is at stake. The ruling authorities must understand that the rest of the world stands firmly on the side of free expression in Cambodia and supports the right of all candidates to stand for election.”
What is APHR?
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) is a human rights intervention force of parliamentarians and other influential persons, who use their unique positions and innovative means to prevent discrimination, uphold political freedom, and promote democracy and human rights throughout the region.
APHR supports the work of civil society and human rights defenders and encourages sustainable solutions that increase pressure on governments and multilateral bodies to ensure accountability and uphold and enforce international human rights laws. Courtesy APHR