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

  • Phnom Penh authorities ban march for Human Rights Day

    Phnom Penh authorities have banned a planned march as local NGOs and workers’ unions gear up to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Monday, with a youth group leader saying they would march nonetheless. The UN

  • Phnom Penh’s Jet’s Container Night Market shuts down

    The famous Jet’s Container Night Market in central Phnom Penh has shut down due to the high cost of the land rental, company representatives claim. Jet’s Container Night Market is the largest such market in Phnom Penh. It operated for just over two

  • Hun Sen rejects ‘rift’ rumours spread by ‘stupid gangsters’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday denied a “rift” among top leaders of the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), and rejected claims that Senate president Say Chhum and Interior Minister Sar Kheng were set to be removed from their positions as rumours spread by “gangsters”.

  • EU ambassador to Cambodia: Rights a ‘work in progress’

    The EU ambassador to Cambodia has called human rights “a work in progress” and said the 28-nation bloc has “carefully” noted last week’s statement by the government on taking further steps to strengthen democracy and the political sphere in the Kingdom. The EU marked