Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sochua calls for action in Australia

Sochua calls for action in Australia

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Former CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua (centre-right) poses for a photograph with Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop (centre-left) after a meeting yesterday in Australia. Photo supplied

Sochua calls for action in Australia

Former Deputy Cambodia National Rescue Party President Mu Sochua met with Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop yesterday, calling for targeted penalties against members of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in response to the political crackdown that saw the CNRP dissolved.

The meeting came against the backdrop of a protest at the parliament in Canberra attended by around 500 pro-opposition Cambodian-Australian activists.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled to dissolve the CNRP – Cambodia’s only viable opposition party – in a move almost universally condemned by the international community and observers.

Since then, Sochua and other leaders have embarked on a mission to encourage world leaders to pressure the ruling party, but to little avail. Yesterday, Sochua said it was “very encouraging” that Bishop met with her delegation and some local Cambodian-Australian officials.

“Australia will not support elections in Cambodia,” she said in a message.

The United States cut its financial support of the upcoming 2018 elections, the only concrete action taken in response to the CNRP’s dissolution so far, but Australia had not pledged any funds to the election.

Va Malina, one of the organisers of the protest in Canberra, said the group submitted a petition to parliament requesting that “the Australian government . . . pressure the Cambodian government to respect the Paris Peace Accords, free Kem Sokha and other political prisoners, ban visas for Cambodian government officials, and let CNRP join the 2018 election”.

Malina said the protesters had also hoped to submit the same petition to the Cambodian Embassy, but no representative came to meet them.

Sochua yesterday also met with members of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, whom she claimed vowed to follow through with her suggestions for visa bans and asset freezes.

“We can expect action from Australia,” she said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan, however, laughed at the idea of Australia taking concrete action.

“It’s her dream,” he said, claiming Cambodia and Australia have “good relations and cooperation”.

“Australia, they work with the ruling party, they work with the government. We are not a terrorist state . . . we are not ISIS,” Siphan said.

While Australia did release a statement condemning the dissolution of the CNRP, the same statement emphasised that Australia is a “friend” of Cambodia. Neither the Australian Embassy nor Bishop responded to requests for comment this week, but the embassy has previously said Australia is considering options for addressing the situation in Cambodia, but not economic sanctions.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, agreed that despite her reception, Sochua’s appeal likely fell on deaf ears.

“While I’m sure that Mu Sochua received a polite hearing, she shouldn’t be holding her breath waiting for concrete action from Canberra,” Robertson said via email last night.

At the core of the issue, he explained, is Australia’s “wrong-headed, rights abusing refugee policies”, which led to a controversial deal to relocate refugees seeking asylum in Australia to Cambodia.

“There’s no room for taking meaningful measures to promote democracy or human rights in that approach,” Robertson added.

Additional reporting by Leonie Kijewski

A previous version of this article said that former CNRP lawmaker Chea Poch met with Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop yesterday. In fact Poch was not at the meeting. The Post apologises for the error.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement