Cambodian-American community leaders have said the victory of the Democrats in the US midterm elections this month will not affect the passage of a bill that would place sanctions on senior Cambodian officials over the country’s deteriorating human rights and democratic record.
The bill, known as the Cambodia Accountability and Return on Investment (CARI) Act, could lead to Cambodian officials’ assets being frozen if Kem Sokha, the former leader of Cambodia’s main opposition party, remains under house arrest and charged with treason.
In late January, eight influential senators, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. John McCain, and Sen. Marco Rubio, wrote Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, to urge her the government to “isolate the Cambodian government, pressure them to reverse course”.
In July, Congress approved a bill which was aimed at placing similar sanctions on several top Cambodian government officials.
US-based advocates say the change in the control of the House after the midterm elections would have no impact on the passage of the CARI Act.
Touch Vibol, executive director of the Cambodian-American Alliance, said both US political parties viewed the deterioration of rights and the democratic process in Cambodia in a similar light.
The “Democratic and Republican parties consider Cambodia a common issue related to promoting freedom and democracy and, in particular, they want those who work to destroy democracy to be responsible before the law,” he said. “In this, it includes financial sanctions or prohibits officials who violate democratic principles from entering the territory of United States. The issue is not going to change.”
However, he added that the retirement of Ed Royce, a prominent Republican critic of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, would be a loss to the community.
Jensen Seng, who has lobbied for the passage of the bill in Congress, agreed.
“Because both bills are fully supported by the two parties, it goes forward,” she said.