Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Panel calls for strong measures against Cambodian government

Panel calls for strong measures against Cambodian government

Participants in a panel at the UN headquarters in New York discuss the political situation in Cambodia on Tuesday.
Participants in a panel at the UN headquarters in New York discuss the political situation in Cambodia on Tuesday. RFA

Panel calls for strong measures against Cambodian government

Politicians and civil society members in New York called on the United Nations to take harsh measures to restore democracy in Cambodia during a panel on Tuesday, even recommending leaving Cambodia’s seat at the UN empty and putting senior ruling party officials on a blacklist.

The discussion, co-hosted by the missions of the United States and European Union to the UN, was held by Kem Monovithya, former opposition official and daughter of jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha; Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) head Pa Nguon Teang; and Human Rights Watch Asia Advocacy Director John Sifton. In the panel, recorded by Radio Free Asia, Monovithya asked the signatories of the 1991 Paris Peace Accords to ask the UN to review Cambodia’s membership.

The panel was convened in light of Cambodia’s deteriorating political situation, which saw the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party summarily dissolved last month.

“Why are we even here, pretending that we will have an election in 2018 when it is very clear that the ruling elites right now, they have shown that they have zero respect . . . for election?” Monovithya asked.

Monovithya also requested the signatory countries to send a request to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a fact-finding mission to Cambodia.

Human Rights Watch’s Sifton, meanwhile, highlighted the importance of targeted economic sanctions.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen and the [Cambodian People’s Party] have ruled Cambodia for decades,” he said. “The current crackdown is a wake-up call on the international community to basically come to realise that this man, or this party, are not good-faith actors and need to be dealt with in a less diplomatic way.”

The way forward, Sifton argued, would be to put senior government officials under the Specially Designated Nationals list, a measure invoked against people found to be involved in gross human rights violations or massive corruption. People on the list are banned from doing business in the US, and many international banks refuse to handle their funds.

CCIM’s Nguon Teang agreed with the calls for action at the international level. In addition to suspending Cambodia’s seat at the UN, he called for the signatories of the Paris Accords to reconvene in accordance with an article in the agreement stipulating that they can meet again if the principles of the agreement are breached.

Phay Siphan, spokesman for Cambodia’s Council of Ministers, said the government could “not tolerate” such attempts to isolate Cambodia internationally.

“It’s a rebellious act. It’s terrorism,” he said, arguing that the participants attempted to “make the people afraid”.

Before the panel convened, Cambodia’s mission to the UN criticised the event as interference in the country’s internal affairs. A representative from the EU Delegation to the UN refuted this in an email, saying, the meet was “about strengthening Cambodia’s developing democratic systems”.

A US Mission to the United Nations statement echoed the assessment.

“The United States joined the European Union and other concerned partners at the United Nations to highlight this negative trend and demand better for the Cambodian people. We will continue to partner with the international community to uphold the dignity of the Cambodian people and encourage the Cambodian government to take a better path,” it said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Government hits back at threats to pull EBA, suspend UN seat

    The spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) has said the government is in no way concerned after the European Parliament gave it three months to reverse what it called the “systematic repression of the political opposition”. Ignoring the ultimatum could mean facing

  • Chinese influx pushing locals, Westerners out of Preah Sihanouk

    Some within the Kingdom’s tourism industry have speculated that the recent influx of Chinese visitors may hinder domestic tourism as the price of accommodations in the coastal city of Sihanoukville continues to rise. Preah Sihanouk province, which has become a hotbed for Chinese investment

  • Sar Kheng: Sokha requested security

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Sunday revealed the story behind the transfer of former opposition party leader Kem Sokha from Trapaing Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province to his house in the capital. Speaking at the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) headquarters in Prey

  • ‘Dire consequences’ from sanctions, warns AmCham

    American businesspeople in Cambodia have warned that any sanction against the Kingdom would have “dire consequences” that could push Cambodia even further into the arms of China. In a letter to US senators and representatives dated Monday, the American Chamber of Commerce Cambodia (AmCham) said