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Gov’t unconcerned by Kem Sokha ‘release’ bill tabled in US Senate

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Former Cambodia National Rescue Party president Kem Sokha. Photo supplied

Gov’t unconcerned by Kem Sokha ‘release’ bill tabled in US Senate

The government was unconcerned by a bill put to the US Senate last week that demands the “release” of Kem Sokha, the president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), its spokesman told The Post on Wednesday.

The bill also calls for the dropping of charges against party co-founder Sam Rainsy.

Cambodia is a sovereign state recognised by the UN and would not be dictated to by foreign countries, Pay Siphan said of the bill that also requires the Kingdom to protect itself from Chinese “meddling in its affairs”.

“One group of politicians is colonial in nature and forgets the sovereignty of nations and that Cambodia is a member of the UN. These US senators seem to be trying to colonise Cambodia, but Cambodia has become accustomed to this nature of colonisation since 1998. These US senators have also made propaganda for the opposition party,” Siphan said.

Siphan’s remarks came after Voice Of America (VOA) broadcast on Wednesday that Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio, and Democratic counterpart Dick Durbin, last week proposed the “Cambodia Accountability and Return to Investment (CARI) Act” to the Senate, the upper chamber of the US Congress.

The CARI Act demands the release of CNRP president Sokha from conditional detention at his home and the dropping of charges against Rainsy, anti-government groups and two former Radio Free Asia (RFA) reporters.

“The bill will require the freezing of the wealth of government officials who keep bank accounts in the US, and demand the US raise objections to all loans to Cambodia."

“If brought into force, the bill will also require Cambodia to protect its sovereignty from Communist China’s meddling in its internal affairs,” VOA reported.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Kim Santepheap could not be reached by The Post for comment on Wednesday.

Siphan said Cambodia was unconcerned as the bill was only in the decision-making phase and had yet to become law. If it were to be passed by the Senate, it would still need to be approved by US President Donald Trump before it could come into force.

He said that although Cambodia was against bullying and colonisation, it remained a friend of the US.

US Embassy spokesperson in Phnom Penh Emily Zeeberg declined to comment on Wednesday.

Kin Phea, the director-general of the International Relations Institute at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, said that the bill had been proposed by three US senators who did not represent the US government.

He said it was unlikely that the bill would ever become law, and even if it did, Cambodia would not capitulate to foreign pressure.

“Cambodia is required to have a clear foreign policy stance, so whether this becomes a law or not, it will not change Cambodia’s position. Cambodia is a sovereign state, and if we were to change according to international pressure, we would no longer be independent."

“The cases of Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy are none of the US’ business. They are part of the internal affairs of Cambodia, where there are measures in place to maintain order and peace.

“So if Cambodia were to plunge into civil war or suffer any turmoil, it is not the US that would take responsibility. It is Cambodia,” he said.

However, political analyst Lao Mong Hay said the US had the right to urge Cambodia to comply with the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements.

“As a signatory to the Paris Peace Agreements, the US has the obligation and legitimate authority under the agreement to take unilateral measures in order for Cambodia to fulfil its obligations as stipulated in the agreement."

“These obligations endorse the implementation of liberal multi-party democracy and the respect for human rights,” Mong Hay said.

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