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‘Dismay’ on new US bill’s democracy accusations

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The headquarters of the Kingdom’s Senate in Phnom Penh. SENATE

‘Dismay’ on new US bill’s democracy accusations

The Kingdom’s Senate was “utterly dismayed” when the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act 2022 (S.3052) last week claiming that Cambodia’s elections have not been free and fair.

The bipartisan bill, introduced by Florida’s Senator from the Republican Party Marco Rubio and Massachusetts’ Senator Ed Markey from the Democratic Party, claimed to support democracy and the protection of human rights in Cambodia. It also touched on alleged Chinese military activity inside the country.

The bill demanded that the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) be reinstated, and its leaders allowed to return. It also proposed sanctions, including visa sanctions for individuals that the US president determined were responsible for damage to democracy in Cambodia.

The claims were rejected outright by the Cambodian Senate.

“The spokesperson of the Senate of the Kingdom of Cambodia is utterly dismayed at and emphatically dismisses the biased, unfounded and prejudiced content of the Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act 2022,” the Kingdom’s Senate said in a statement.

The bill claimed that none of the six Cambodian elections since 1991 have been free and fair. It also alleged fraud, intimidation, violence and the misuse of legal mechanisms by the Cambodian government to weaken candidates and opposition parties.

“In the July 2018 general election, after the dissolution of the [CNRP], the Cambodian People’s Party won every single parliamentary seats – an election victory described by the White House press secretary as not being free or representative of the will of the Cambodian people,” it said.

The Kingdom’s Senate countered that the opposite was true.

“Claiming that none of Cambodia’s elections were free and fair is a gross denial of the facts. The US observer team headed by the late Congressman Stephen Solarz portrayed the 1998 election as a ‘miracle on the Mekong’,” it said, adding that subsequent elections in Cambodia have all been assessed by thousands of national and international observers as free, fair, peaceful and orderly.

The statement continued that likewise thousands of local and foreign monitors characterised the June 5 commune council elections contested by 17 political parties as fair and transparent, free of threats, and in compliance with international standards.

The legislation proposed by the US Senators subscribed excessively to contested sources, particularly Human Rights Watch whose credibility had been compromised since 2004, it added.

“The approach taken by the Senate Committee constitutes interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state, and hinders the ongoing maintenance of peace, political stability and the promotion of socio-economic development for all,” it concluded.

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