Former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans has said Cambodian political leaders should be “named, shamed, investigated and sanctioned” by the international community in unprecedented public criticism by the one of the architects of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements.
In an opinion piece published in today's Post, Evans says the behaviour of the administration led by Prime Minister Hun Sen “has now moved beyond the civilised pale”.
“Cambodia’s government has been getting away with murder,” Evans writes, adding that the response of the international community in the post-election period, marked by mass protests before a violent crackdown by authorities last month that left several dead, was “muted”.
“Australia’s statements have been typical – falling over backward to avoid giving offence, and too anxious to balance criticism with praise,” he says, adding that a recent meeting between Australian foreign minister Julie Bishop and Hun Sen saw “no robust critique” delivered.
“There is a place for quiet diplomacy that relies on genuine engagement to encourage significant behavioral change. But when states behave badly enough for long enough, loud megaphones can also be in order.
“I know Hun Sen and worked well with him in the past. I have resisted strong public criticism until now, because I thought there was hope for both him and his government.… [But] it is time for Cambodia’s political leaders to be named, shamed, investigated and sanctioned by the international community,” he writes.
Son Soubert, who first worked with Evans in the lead-up to the Paris accords, to which the Khmer People’s National Liberation Front, led by his father, Son Sann, was a signatory, praised Evans’ decision to speak out.
“I really support his views and his courage to stand up for the Cambodian people … he knows quite well that [Hun Sen] will never change,” the former constitutional council member and current Human Rights Party president said.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday said that on the contrary to Evans’ call, foreign governments should engage to help Cambodians “transition” and make their own democratic choices.
He added that Evans should examine what has recently occurred in Cambodia beyond media reports.
“The Paris agreements stipulate very clearly that no foreigners shall interfere with Cambodia’s politics. We do have a legitimate [government], democracy is on the right track and people can voice their concerns and show their choice at the election,” Siphan said.
“Help Cambodian people to have their own power to decide. Let Cambodia belong to the people and not the politicians.”