A group of Cambodian-Americans has refused to recognize the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen after the longtime premiere claimed a landslide victory in a general election last month.
The Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 seats in parliament in the vote on July 29 but has been criticized for banning the country’s main opposition party, and allegations of a campaign against civil society, independent media and voter intimidation.
At the annual Overseas Khmer Summit (OKS), held over the weekend in Minnesota, rights activists and academics in the Cambodian diaspora denounced the election and appealed to the international community to intervene.
Tung Yap, secretary general of the OKS, called on the government to “respect the spirit of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.”
“We also appealed to the international community to assist in making sure the spirit of this peace accord is fully respected,” he said.
Voter turnout in the election was reported at more than 82 percent, with the CPP gaining 77 percent of the vote, eclipsing its 19 competitors.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party, which won a large minority of 55 seats in parliament in the last election, was banned in November after its leader, Kem Sokha, was jailed on treason charges two months earlier.
Numerous governments, including that of the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany, have said the election was not free or fair and consider the results unrepresentative of the will of the Cambodian people.
The U.S. and E.U. have warned of further sanctions on Cambodian officials following the election.
Yorn Yan, executive director of the United Cambodian Association of Minnesota, said those gathered at the OKS had also discussed “ways to pressure the Cambodian government further so that it turns back to talk and solve the problem.”
He added that Cambodian-Americans would support the implementation of the Cambodia Democracy Act, which will pave the way for further sanctions on senior officials in the Hun Sen regime.
Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, who attended the summit, said participants had “a role to play collectively that you may not realize.”
“And now Hun Sen's made a big mistake. He's officially ended the Paris Peace Agreement and now is the time for them to hear from you,” he said.
But Phay Siphan, a government spokesman, said the election was an expression of the will of the Cambodian people.
“The decision is for Khmer interest and it is their sovereignty to determine their own fate; it’s not the elections that serve [the interests of] the E.U., the U.S., the Chinese or the Vietnamese,” he said.