Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Australia debates motion to condemn Cambodia’s political crackdown

Australia debates motion to condemn Cambodia’s political crackdown

An image posted to Australian lawmaker Mark Butler's website shows the MP in parliament discussing Cambodia's political situation.
An image posted to Australian lawmaker Mark Butler's website shows the MP in parliament discussing Cambodia's political situation. Image: Markbutler.net.au

Australia debates motion to condemn Cambodia’s political crackdown

The Australian Parliament is considering a motion to condemn Cambodia’s political crackdown, with lawmaker Mark Butler declaring Australia has “a solemn duty” to take action to defend Cambodia’s “fledgling democracy”.

“Cambodia has reached a point of deep political crisis,” Butler said in his opening remarks at a Monday session, noting the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha, the dissolution of his Cambodia National Rescue Party and the shuttering of independent media outlets and pro-democracy organisations.

Butler’s motion, originally submitted in October, demands the release of Sokha and the removal of civil society restrictions, while also condemning the dissolution of the CNRP.

“These latest outrages are undeniably an escalation by the regime and must be met with diplomatic resistance at the highest levels,” Butler said. He did not specify exactly what form diplomatic resistance should take.

“I call on this Parliament to acknowledge that Australia has an important role to play in the safeguarding and furthering of Cambodian democracy,” he added.

The subject will be revisited at Parliament's next sitting, beginning February 12.

Australia’s original reaction to the CNRP's dissolution was less than forceful, with Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop expressing “concern” while emphasising that Cambodia is a “friend” of Australia.

Indeed, government spokesman Phay Siphan today said he was not concerned by Butler's remarks because "the executive still cares about cooperation and good relations".

"They have no right to interfere with our internal issues," he said.

Former CNRP Deputy President Mu Sochua, meanwhile, commended Butler’s motion.

Sochua said a CNRP “delegation” would visit Australia for the full month of March, and would meet with Butler and other members of Parliament personally.

Despite Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent warning to former CNRP politicians not to "come near Asia" lest they be arrested, Sochua said the CNRP would also officially begin meeting with Asean nations to drum up support for their cause.

“It’s a free world, democracy is global. He wants to come and get me? Fine,” Sochua said. “But I will not let democracy in Cambodia die”.

Siphan said the government had made it clear that they want Asean nations to "send those people back to face justice".

"We have a right to request extradition," he said, adding that failing to do so would indicate a desire "not to cooperate with Cambodia".

MOST VIEWED

  • All Covid restrictions for inbound travellers lifted

    Cambodia has apparently taken the final step towards full reopening of the country without Covid-19 restrictions by removing all requirements for inbound travellers, who until now had to show health certificates indicating that they have tested Covid-19 negative in the past 72 hours as well as

  • Typhoon Noru brings flash floods – 16 dead

    An official warned that that the 16th typhoon of the season, Noru, had brought heavy rains to areas the Mekong River and flooded thousands of homes in the provinces bordering Thailand. As of September 27, the death toll from the flooding had risen to 16. National Committee

  • Cambodia stands firm on 5PC: No invite for Myanmar to ASEAN Summit this year

    Cambodia has not invited Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, chairman of Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council (SAC), to the 40th and 41st ASEAN Summit and related meetings scheduled for next month in Phnom Penh. The government will instead invite a non-political representative from Myanmar

  • Mushrooming borey projects and home financing – a cause for concern?

    A spurt in housing developments is typically a sign of a growing economy but underneath all that might lay some anxiety of credit growth as developers offer financing to buyers at higher rates, an activity the central bank identifies as ‘shadow banking’ Earlier this year,

  • Thai Senate delegates in Cambodia to discuss anti-graft co-op

    A delegation from Thailand's Senate was in Phnom Penh on September 28 to meet their Cambodian counterparts to discuss strategies for fighting corruption and enhancing cooperation. The Thai delegates were from its Senate’s Committee on Studying and Inspecting Corruption, Misconduct and Strengthening Good Governance. They

  • Hun Sen’s rare visit to Cuba: What’s going on?

    Back on August 17, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that he would deliver a speech at the 77th UN General Assembly (UNGA) at the UN headquarters in the US’ New York City, visit Cuba and attend the state funeral of the slain Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo