PHNOM PENH & WASHINGTON DC —
Prime Minister Hun Sen says he will continue to “dismantle” groups that are a threat to the government.
In a letter to coincide with the International Day of Peace on Monday, Hun Sen said Cambodian democracy and human rights are making progress, but he also said groups that abuse the principles to serve their “political purposes” would not be tolerated.
Some groups use the guise of human rights or democracy as “tricks’ to advance their cause, he said.
“I would like to appeal to all patriots, as well as all international organizations and civil societies in Cambodia, to grab hands and support the spirit of this International Day of Peace, to continue implementing ‘the culture of dialogue’ thoroughly, and continue putting an effort into improving and broadly disseminating the foundation of supporting peace, which includes the strengthening of non-violent culture, patience, mutual understanding, mutual respect, and mercy in our society.”
Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside the Cambodian Embassy in Washington two weeks ago to demand the release of opposition activists, who have recently been jailed on charges related to leading demonstrations, and three environmental activists, who were leading a campaign to halt sand dredging along the coast of Koh Kong province.
Yap Kim Tung, president of Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy, told VOA Khmer that the government’s recent “aggressive” attitudes toward dissent propelled them to organize the protest. “We want real democracy,” he said. “We want the government to release environmental activists and the lawmakers from the opposition party.”
In August, authorities in Koh Kong province arrested and detained three prominent environmental activists of Mother Nature Cambodia. That same month, Phnom Penh Municipal Court issued an arrest warrant for opposition lawmaker Hong Sok Hour, after he posted a map on his Facebook account, alleging that Cambodia had signed a “fake” treaty with Vietnam on border issue.
Thit Kimhun, a Cambodian American participating in the protest in Washington, told VOA Khmer that these arrests demonstrate that “democracy does not exist in Cambodia under the current government.”
“Democracy means I can voice my concerns about my country, be it the environment or politics, without fear of harassment or arrest from the government,” she said. “It’s time that the government learns to listen to people’s concerns.”
Chea Kim Ly, head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s North America operations, said the government must respect the rule of law and take real action on reform. “We call upon the government to eradicate corruption, illegal logging, excessive sand dredging, and land grabbing,” he said.