An Australian state congressman has called on the Australian government to follow in the footsteps of the European Union and the United States by placing limited sanctions on the regime of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Hong Lim, a congressman for Australia’s Victoria State, wrote in a statement on Thursday that he was saddened by the ongoing crackdown on civil society and the political opposition in Cambodia, and called on the Australian government to consider sanctions against Phnom Penh.
Australia and Cambodia entered into a multi-million dollar deal in 2014 that saw a small number of refugees from Australia’s offshore internment centers sent to the Kingdom.
Lim told VOA Khmer that he saw Prime Minister Hun Sen as “the same as Pol Pot”, the leader of the Khmer Rouge regime, who oversaw the unnatural deaths of as many as 1.7 million Cambodians in the late 1970s.
“In the Pol Pot regime, were there any hearings, or judges? Judges were useless... It is just like the Pol Pot regime because no matter how hard we protest, it is useless.”
In response to a concerted crackdown on dissent by the Cambodian government, which has seen the opposition dissolved, political opponents locked up on questionable charges, and civil society and media outlets targeted, the E.U. and United States imposed limited sanctions on the government.
Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, dismissed the comments, which he said would not affect the relationship between Cambodia and Australia.
“Cambodia can still maintain close cooperation... that group [Lim and his supporters] are not worth it for the Australian government to lose the joint benefit between the two countries,” he said.
Lao Mong Hay, a political analyst, said he supported any sanctions against Cambodia in light of the deterioration in human rights but added that the comparison with Pol Pot was wrong.
“There could be pressure from international diplomacy on Cambodia. It will also affect some donors. That is not good. It is a loss for the whole country and the Cambodian people,” he said.