Members of the opposition and civil society expect to raise a number of questions on Cambodia's current states of democracy and human rights next week during a brief visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Clinton will arrive in Cambodia Saturday and stay through Monday, with talks expected with senior government officials, as well as opposition lawmakers and rights activists.
Her visit, the first since Colin Powell attended an Asean regional forum here in 2003, follows an official visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, during which Prime Minister Hun Sen said he wanted UN's local rights representative sacked and a land demonstrator was severely beaten by police.
A US Embassy statement said Clinton's visit was “intended to send a strong message of continued US engagement with Cambodia.”
Am Sam Ath, lead investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said activists will ask Clinton “to help intervene with Cambodian officials to respect the principles of human rights.”
The opposition Sam Rainsy Party, meanwhile, will seek the return of its party leader, Sam Rainsy, who is facing a prison sentence of 12 years in two criminal cases against him that the party says are politically motivated.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said Cambodia respects human rights, and the cases brought against Sam Rainsy are the purview of the courts.
Clinton will also hold a “town hall” meeting with students, where she will likely meet even more questions on Cambodia's current rights climate.
“I want to ask her whether she has a strategy for Cambodia...to turn into a real democratic nation,” said Sok Sam Lyka, a second-year student at the Institute of Foreign Languages.