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US-Cambodians Want UN Repercussions for Assembly Expulsions

WASHINGTON DC - A group of Cambodian-Americans says the United Nations should consider suspending Cambodia’s seat, in the wake of the expulsion of 29 lawmakers from the National Assembly earlier this month.

Critics of the expulsion say it has cost the Assembly its legitimacy and has made it legally impossible to hold sessions.

“The parliament in Cambodia is invalid,” said Prom Saunora, a political analyst from Virginia. “The United Nations can now pull out the [Assembly] representatives from the Cambodian People’s Party…because it is illegal. These representatives’ seats today are invalid.”

The CPP-dominated Assembly expelled 29 opposition lawmakers from the Sam Rainsy and Human Rights parties earlier this month, claiming they had given up their seats when they joined up with the Cambodia National Rescue Party to contest the elections in July. Legal analysts have said the move was unlawful, because the constitution does not allow representatives to be removed from their seats within six months of their terms ending.

Schanley Kuch, a political analyst from Maryland, said the expulsions were also against international norms.

“The United Nations will consider this,” he said. “They will monitor closely Cambodia’s activities. And if they see that the government seems to have moved too far from UN laws and rules, stipulated to its members, they will pull their seat away.”

That seems very unlikely for now, said John Ciorciari, a professor of public policy at the University of Michigan.

However, he said, Cambodia’s diplomatic and domestic policies can affect its ability to be voted into UN agencies, like the Security Council or the Human Rights Council.

“That makes sense,” he said. “States should consider candidates’ policy records when electing them to key global bodies that deliver both power and prestige.”

“Cambodia tried without success for a Security Council seat in 2012, and if it seeks membership in key organizations, it has an added reason to demonstrate its commitment to the rule of law, both at home and abroad,” he said.

Other UN officials say it takes an egregious violation of the UN charter to be expelled, and requires a proposal by permanent members like the US to take place. The UN did suspend Cambodia’s seat in 1997, following a violent coup by the Cambodian People’s Party, which put Prime Minister Hun Sen in power.

Still, the Assembly expulsion has drawn round criticism from the international community. The US has called on the Assembly to reinstate the lawmakers or risk damaging Cambodia’s democratic process.