PHNOM PENH —
With political tensions between the ruling party and opposition increased over alleged border encroachment by Vietnam and the ongoing arrests of activists, observers say the two sides should work together along with the judiciary to find a resolution.
The border issue stokes nationalistic fires, and political analysts say that’s a chance for both sides to improve their popularity among the electorate.
“It’s Cambodians and Cambodians fighting to protect their own sovereignty,” Son Soubert, a former member of the Constitutional Council and leader of the Human Rights Party, told “Hello VOA” Monday. “I would suggest the ruler does not strengthen the abuse of power, of people’s freedoms, nor violate the constitution.”
Cambodia’s borders are established in the constitution in 1993, under a map that was internationally recognized in 1968. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy has suggested an amended constitution that shows borders from a map that dates back to 1914 and was used through 1953.
Other members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party have demanded action on alleged border encroachment by Vietnam, leading to the arrest of Rescue Party senator Hong Sok Hour over the weekend, for allegedly posting a “fake” border map online.
Ny Chakrya, lead monitor for the rights group Adhoc, told “Hello VOA” the opposition is being pressured to relent on the border issue. “The arrest is clearly linked to the political heat over the border,” he said. “I suggest the politicians uphold the border issue as a common interest.”
Hong Sok Hour’s posting of a non-official map online was improper, he said, but not illegal. Likewise, his arrest was wrong, Ny Chakrya said.
Meanwhile, a group of 13 civil society organizations issued a statement Tuesday, expressing grave concerns over Hong Sok Hour’s arrest, as well as the arrests of 14 activists, including three environmental activists in Koh Kong province Monday.
In their statement, the groups say the government of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party is “undertaking a campaign to shut down the dissenting voices that provide the strongest opposition – political opponents, civil society organizations, trade unions, and ordinary people using social media – by exercising complete control over the judiciary and by introducing oppressive laws that violate international human rights standards.”