A leading member of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party visited Indonesia this week to seek diplomatic support in response to a crackdown on political opponents of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Mu Sochua, a vice president of the CNRP, arrived in Jakarta this week after leading a protest in Canberra, Australia, where she also met with lawmakers from the Labour Party and Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Kem Sokha, the CNRP’s president, was arrested in September and charged with treason for his alleged role in plotting to overthrow Hun Sen. Most of the CNRP’s lawmakers have since fled the country.
In Jakarta, Sochua met Fadli Zon, deputy speaker of the People’s Representative Council, the lower house of Indonesia’s parliament, on Thursday. Zon reportedly promised political support through the Indonesian legislature, saying he wanted to see a “more democratic” Cambodia, according to Sochua’s Facebook page.
“Indonesia is important because it was a co-chair of the Paris Peace Agreement,” Sochua said, referring to a 1991 peace deal co-chaired by Indonesia and France to end Cambodia’s civil war.
“He [Zon] said he would deliver a motion [on Cambodia] working with [the] Indonesian government to make communication with Samdech Heng Samrin regarding the dismissals of CNRP lawmakers and elected local representatives,” she added, referring to the National Assembly president.
Sochua’s presence in Jakarta was in defiance of a threat of arrest and extradition from Hun Sen against opposition politicians if they visited Asian countries to lobby for the CNRP.
On Thursday, the Trump administration moved to impose visa restrictions on Cambodian government officials responsible for “undermining democracy” and promised to take more steps against Hun Sen’s government if necessary.
Cambodia maintains that its actions are in accordance with the rule of law and were taken to ensure national stability.
Phay Siphan, government spokesman, said the opposition was “executing a strategy to pull Cambodia into the control of the international community again, which is impossible.”
He added that due to Asean’s policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, Indonesia was unlikely to follow through on Zon’s remarks.
Astrid Norén-Nilsson, an expert on Cambodian politics at Lund University, said it would take time before the opposition’s lobbying efforts yielded results. “The US visa ban represents a first significant action taken by a foreign government that would be felt very directly. Asset freezes would really step up the pressure.”
Jakarta provides military aid to Hun Sen’s elite bodyguard unit, making it unlikely to intervene in the political crisis, she added.
(Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that “Astrid Norén-Nilsson, an expert on Cambodian politics at Cornell University,” which is not correct. Astrid Norén-Nilsson is an expert on Cambodian politics at Lund University in Sweden.)