Cambodia’s ongoing crackdown on the opposition and civil society ahead of the 2018 election should be at the forefront of discussions at the United Nations General Assembly in January, the daughter of the country’s jailed opposition leader has said.
Speaking at a forum in New York last week, Kem Monovithya, a spokeswoman for the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party and the daughter of Kem Sokha, the jailed CNRP president, urged UN member states to add Cambodia to the agenda when the body meets in January.
“I would propose that the member states especially those who have signed on to the Paris Peace Accord send a request to the UN Secretariat for a fact-finding mission, monitoring mission to Cambodia to assess the situation now and to talk to the Cambodian authorities to find solutions in regard to Paris Peace Accord,” she said.
“I would request that the member states request to UN body to review Cambodian membership at the UN,” she added.
John Sifton, Asia advocacy director of Human Rights Watch, said Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has held power in Cambodia for more than 30 years, has deliberately sabotaged the democratic process in Cambodia.
“You still see sort of lip service paid to that idea, but with the statement made this year that the Paris Peace Accord is over, the Paris Peace Accord is dead, the scales can now fall from my eyes that Hun Sen has revealed that he is ... the leader of one-party authoritarian state,” he said.
“Democracy is dead but it can be resuscitated. Countries like France, Japan, the rest of them, really need to step up here and join other concerned countries to raise the real cause on Cambodia so they turn away from this authoritarian [trend,” he added.
In an interview with VOA Khmer this week, Farhan Aziz Haq, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said Guterres was concerned by the anti-democratic trend in Cambodia.
Both the United States and the European Union have withdrawn election funding for the National Election Committee, which was staffed with pro-government officials after three opposition appointees resigned in protest at the dissolution of the opposition in November.
Tuy Ry, Cambodia’s ambassador to the United Nations, has however claimed that such moves violate Cambodia’s autonomy and independence.
Speaking at the forum, which was hosted by the US State Department’s mission to the United Nations, Pa Nguon Teang, founder of the Cambodian Center for Independent Media, asked the United Nations’ members states to suspend Cambodia from the organization unless the government frees Sokha and reinstates the CNRP.
Rhona Smith, UN Special Rapporteur, was due to join the discussion by teleconference link, but instead issued a statement in which she described the situation in Cambodia as “troubling” and urged UN member states to open dialogue with Cambodia about human rights and democracy.