Calls for foreign intervention in Cambodia in light of an ongoing crackdown on dissent are growing as the Khmer diaspora seeks ways to bring attention to the unfolding political crisis.
Hong Lim, a Cambodian-Australian member of the Victorian legislative assembly, joined calls for further intervention while on a mission in the United States.
He said only intervention from the international community could pressure the government into curtailing its moves to dissolve the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and roll back the freedom of civil society.
“We have to remember that the Paris Peace Accord was created because the international community saw the then Hun Sen’s government installed by the Vietnamese as illegitimate,” he said, referring to the U.N.-brokered agreement that ended Cambodia’s civil war in 1991.
“Therefore if Mr. Hun Sen continues to pressure the opposition till they are not able to compete equally and freely, the new government from this election will be illegitimate again.”
Protests against the arrest of the CNRP president, Kem Sokha, last month broke out in far-flung places such as Japan, South Korea, and Germany, as well as countries with large Cambodian expatriate communities, such as the United States, Australia, and France.
Lim said the scale and coordination of the protests showed that Cambodia’s diaspora communities had matured. “We are now more organized. We are now more conscious about the need to act together.”
He added that he would retire from Australian politics at the end of the current term of office, in November 2018, to focus on uniting the Cambodian diaspora.
“I would say that with my knowledge, with my experience as a member of parliament, with my involvement very intensively with my political party I have so much to offer in terms of advising,” he said.
“We have more voices, and they’re depending on us to reflect their aspiration, their concern, their wishes to be heard of.”
Ben Bao, president of Cambodian Community Day, a community network, who attended a gathering with Lim in Washington on Friday, agreed that the diaspora communities needed to unite in the face of what is happening in Cambodia.
“Personally, I believe that we don’t have someone whom everybody could pay attention to when he speaks,” he said. “If Hong Lim can play a role to coordinate among them all with good intention by listening to others and basing his decision on justice, I believe that Cambodian people will respect him.”
Vannak Men, a community organizer in Lowell, MA, said a figure such as Lim, with a respectable background in politics in a western democracy, could help push the international community to take action.
“This is a good initiative that I really appreciate,” he said. “We are happy to cooperate and work together with him. We welcome his recommendations.”