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US House Passes Resolution on Cambodia Tensions


Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) ​addresses Cambodian-American protesters who called for the United States' intervention to put an end to human rights violations in Cambodia, Washington D.C., Friday June 10, 2016.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) ​addresses Cambodian-American protesters who called for the United States' intervention to put an end to human rights violations in Cambodia, Washington D.C., Friday June 10, 2016.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced House Resolution 728 on Monday, saying it was intended as a strong message of support for human rights and democracy in Cambodia.

The US Congress has passed a resolution condemning the Cambodian government for its attacks on the country’s main opposition, saying that if relations between the major parties did not improve, there would be consequences for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced House Resolution 728 on Monday, saying it was intended as a strong message of support for human rights and democracy in Cambodia.

“That’s why it is so important for us to pass this resolution and show that the United States stands with the people of Cambodia. We will send an important signal to the Cambodian government that political violence of any kind will not be tolerated and the Cambodian people must be able to enjoy the freedom to choose their own leaders. Only under these conditions can elections in Cambodia be considered free and fair by the international community,” he said.

In an interview with VOA Khmer on Tuesday, Lowenthal said if the government ignored the resolution and did not institute major reforms, stop persecution against the opposition, there would be “consequences”, without elaborating on what they might be.

Prior to the passing of the resolution, members of congress took to the floor to speak on issues affecting Cambodia, such as the targeting of the leadership of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party by the courts.

Republican Ed Royce, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that since “deeply flawed” elections in 2013, there had been “significant attacks on those Cambodians peacefully opposing their government.”

Republican Ed Royce, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said that since “deeply flawed” elections in 2013, there had been “significant attacks on those Cambodians peacefully opposing their government.”

“Hun Sen’s thuggish regime continues to crack down on his political opposition and other activists, arresting and beating those who oppose his rule. As noted in this resolution, Freedom House’s most recent report rated Cambodia as ‘Not Free,’ noting restrictions on – and harassment of – the government’s political opposition,” he said.

Last year, opposition lawmaker and U.S. citizen Nhay Chamreoun was attacked by men later linked to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, who repeatedly assaulted him outside the gates of parliament.

In July, Kem Ley, a popular Cambodian political commentator, was murdered in broad daylight.

Hun Sen took yet another step to consolidate his grip on power, sentencing the de facto leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, Kem Sokha, to five months in prison “on the spurious charge of refusing to appear for questioning in a politically motivated case that was brought against him,” Royce said.

“This systematic persecution of the government’s opposition completely undermines the legitimacy of upcoming local elections, as well as the country’s 2018 national elections. Without the full and free participation of the CNRP, future elections will be deeply flawed and cannot be accepted. Hun Sen’s continued attack on his political opponents is something we simply cannot accept.”

Hun Sen has since said that he could use the armed forces to crackdown on a planned opposition demonstration, while a senior general said the military was ready to arrest Kem Sokha – who has been holed up in the part headquarters since May – if ordered.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, told VOA Khmer that it was “time for Prime Minister Hun Sen to recognize that his game of trying to exterminate the opposition through the use of intimidation, the control of security forces, the control of the court is being seen by the international community a further distention to the dictatorship in Cambodia.”

Prom Saonora, honorary president of the Cambodia-America Alliance (CAA), which lobbied for the resolution to be passed, said that if the upcoming elections in 2018 were viewed by the United States as illegitimate, there could be moves in Congress to “limit economic cooperation” with Cambodia.

“I’m not sure what that would take until we have full discussion of that issue. We are hoping that the prime minister will follow what was agreed upon by both the CNRP and the CPP. But if he doesn’t, I will tell you that there will be consequences.”

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