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Asean Liberals Call for End to Attacks on Cambodian Opposition


Screenshot of Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) website

The statement from Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) came as Rhona Smith encouraged Cambodians to work towards changing the political culture in the country.

A prominent group of Asean parliamentarians on Friday called on the Cambodian government to end targeted harassment of the country’s former opposition.

The Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November 2017 shortly before the 2018 general election which the ruling Cambodian People’s Party went on to win almost without challenge.

The statement from Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) came as Rhona Smith, the special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia, encouraged Cambodians to work towards changing the political culture in the country.

The APHR said the government crackdown has included harassment, unlawful arrests, physical attacks and even reports of torture and killings, while Prime Minister Hun Sen has used public speeches to announce his intentions to “destroy” the opposition.

“The widening harassment of the opposition in Cambodia must end immediately. Authorities continue to rely on a range of tactics – including arbitrary arrests and trumped-up criminal charges – to target those supporting the CNRP,” Charles Santiago, APHR board chair and an MP in Malaysia, said in the statement.

“Cambodia has already become a de facto one-party state since last year’s election. The continued attacks on the opposition show that the government has no interest in meaningful dialogue but is only concerned with strengthening its own grip on power,” he added.

This week, Battambang Provincial Court subpoenaed 26 former CNRP commune chiefs, vice commune chiefs, and commune councilors over allegations that they violated the Supreme Court ruling that dissolved the party in 2017.

Eleven former party members have appeared at the court. The hearing will continue next week.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Cambodian government, could not be reached for comment on Friday.

But he told VOA Khmer on Thursday in response to comments from Smith that the court was working to improve “the rule of law.”

“This recent activity is an act of improving the rule of law. In this universe, nobody has power to violate the verdict of the court, meaning the court is taking measures according to the law,” he said.

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