A U.S. senator has warned that Cambodia could face further travel bans on officials if it does not release opposition leader Kem Sokha ahead of next year’s general election.
Ted Cruz, who represents Texas for the Republican Party, gave the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen until November 9 to release Kem Sokha, president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, and to drop legal proceedings against the party that are likely to lead to its dissolution.
He wrote in a letter to Chum Bunrong, Cambodian ambassador to the United States and Mexico, that the U.S. could move to place further travel restrictions on Cambodian officials if the demands were not met.
Washington in September placed visa restrictions on a number of Cambodian foreign ministry officials and their families.
“If your Prime Minister does not release Kem Sokha by Nov 9, I will work with my colleagues in Congress and in the Trump administration to see that specified government officials responsible for these actions are prevented from traveling to the United States,” he wrote.
The letter is the latest denouncement of Cambodian government policy, which has also seen independent media targeted for closure and U.S.-funded “democracy promotion” outfit the National Democratic Institute told to leave the country.
“From removing independent election monitors and human rights organizations to shuttering hundreds of radio stations, imprisoning Kem Sokha, the Prime Minister has undermined both and is endangering the future not only of US-Cambodia relations but of Cambodia democracy,” Cruz wrote.
In a phone interview from France, where he is living in exile, the former CNRP president Sam Rainsy said the government was “violating democracy” and abandoning the Paris Peace Accords, which ended Cambodia’s civil war in 1991.
“Now Cambodia is not following a democratic path. Cambodia is walking the opposite path so it fully violates the Paris Accords,” he said.
“I believe that the situation will change because of the free world, democratic countries, are the signatories of the Paris Peace Accords, and will not ignore [them],” he added.
“If Cambodia wants to have a relationship with them [the international community], wants to receive aid money and loans from them, wants to have their investment, want markets from them, Cambodia needs to respect international laws ... respect international laws, democratic principles that are stipulated in the international treaties that Cambodia signed.”