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Asean called on to ‘press’ PM at summit

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PM Hun Sen attended the 65th anniversary of Cambodia's independence from France in 1953, last week. Heng Chivoan

Asean called on to ‘press’ PM at summit

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) on Friday called on the leaders of Asean member states to “press” Prime Minister Hun Sen on human rights issues during the Asean summit this week in Singapore. In response, a government spokesperson called its chairman a “demon”.

Charles Santiago, APHR board chairman and a Malaysian parliamentarian said: “Human rights are under threat throughout Southeast Asia. Asean’s destructive non-interference principle means that the bloc has been both unwilling and unable to take a stand against violations.

“This lack of action must end – human rights should take centre stage in Singapore next week. Asean leaders cannot let the Cambodian government simply get away with dismantling democracy.

“They must push Prime Minister Hun Sen to end his crackdown on dissent and hold new, genuinely free and fair elections.”

APHR claimed that Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) had won all 125 seats in the National Assembly following a fraudulent election in July.

It said the CPP had increased repressive tactics against opponents by dismantling independent media, harassing and jailing rights activists, dissolving the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and arresting its leader Kem Sokha.

It added that after the July election, only piecemeal concessions were offered by releasing a limited number of political prisoners, while an unspecified law remained.

The group also called for Asean leaders to put the Rohingya issue in Myanmar on their agenda.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan hit back.

“Firstly, I would call [Santiago] a demon who is going against Cambodian citizens. He doesn’t have a role to meddle in the Kingdom’s internal affairs. Secondly, he is a demon who is going against the Asean spirit by interfering."

“He is just a puppet of the media. If he was a real politician, he should care about his country and see if there was any human rights violation. This should be what he cares about,” he said.

Siphan said APHR is just an NGO consisting of minority parliamentarians whose parties had mostly never won an election.

Prime Minister Hun Sen will attend the 33rd Asean Summit from Tuesday to Thursday in Singapore, an announcement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said on Friday.

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