PHNOM PENH —
A group of Asian parliamentarians on Friday condemned the Cambodian government’s crackdown on the opposition, which it said was leading to one-party rule.
The group, Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), said in a statement that moves by the Cambodian People’s Party to dissolve the Cambodia National Rescue Party and distribute its seats among minor political parties was a “brazen attempt to legitimize a wholly undemocratic move: giving positions at all levels of government to parties who, instead of earning the vote of the people, sold their loyalties to the CPP.”
“The ruling party wants to be able to argue that Cambodia remains a multiparty democracy, but no one should be fooled,” Charles Santiago, APHR chairman, said in the statement.
“Make no mistake: if the CNRP is dissolved, the result will be the one-party rule in Cambodia. The government selecting its own competition and eliminating anyone who poses even the remotest threat doesn’t constitute a genuine multi-party system,” he added.
In September, Kem Sokha, CNRP president, was arrested on treason charges, becoming the latest opposition politician targeted by the courts on questionable charges.
Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials have claimed the moves against the opposition, as well as the closure of independent media outlets and expulsion of U.S.-funded NGO the National Democratic Institute, are intended to protect Cambodian democracy against threats.
Sok Eysan, a CPP spokesman, said critics of the government should also blame Sokha for the government’s actions. “If they want to condemn those who caused a loss of democracy in Cambodia, they should put the blame on the opposition party, which committed offenses to violate democracy in Cambodia, where there is the rule of law,” he said.
“The opposition leader colluded with foreigners in an attempt to topple the legitimate government of Cambodia.”
Sokha’s treason charges stem from his alleged involvement in a plot to overthrow Hun Sen, however, the only evidence so far produced by the government to back up its claim is an old video of a speech given by Sokha where he talked about receiving advice from the United States on setting up a human rights group to gain grassroots support.
The APHR statement came a day after U.N. rights envoy Rhona Smith said Cambodian democracy was in peril.