Some 200 Cambodians gathered in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in Canberra on Tuesday to deliver a petition calling on the Australian government to condemn the Kingdom’s new government and to put sanctions on prime minister-designate Hun Sen and other leading officials.
Australian politician Hong Lim, the Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly for Clarinda who led the rally, said the mood was such that many of the protesters had taken the day off to join the rally, the first of its kind to take place on a working day.
“The purpose is to ask Australia to reject Hun Sen’s sham and fake election of July 29 [and] to follow the US in visa sanctions and freezing Hun Sen and co’s assets, [and call for the freeing of Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president] Kem Sokha,” Lim said on Tuesday.
He said he welcomed the news that the Australian Ambassador to Cambodia would not be attending the opening of parliament scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Lim, who is also the president of the Cambodian Australian Federation (CAF), said the petition “calling on the Australian government to condemn the inauguration of Hun Sen’s new government which is scheduled to take place in Phnom Penh this Thursday” was delivered to DFAT State Director Jenny Bloomfield.
A CAF press release also said that Hun Sen’s relatives and political allies had gathered property and assets worth more than $20 million in Australia, a claim they based on media reports.
The CAF also alleged that “high-ranking Cambodian government and military officials regularly hold events in Melbourne for the purpose of radicalising and pressuring community members to support the [leadership],” the CAF statement said.
The CAF also called for the release of Kem Sokha, the jailed CNRP president, the reinstatement of the CNRP as a political party and its 118 officials, and the release of Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, who was sentenced last week to six years in prison for espionage.
However, ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesperson Sok Eysan said in response on Tuesday that “no one cares” about Hong Lim.
“Whatever he wants to say, he can say, but it has no benefit at all. No one cares about him,” Eysan said.
‘No action taken’
Regarding the allegation of the $20 million worth of investment in Australia by CPP officials, Eysan said if those officials had broken Australian law then the authorities there would have already taken action against them.
“If [any of] their actions were illegal, Australia would have taken legal action. If they weren’t then how can they take action? [There is] no need for Hong Lim to say [anything]. Those who break the law . . . they face legal procedures,” he said.
DFAT Asia-Pacific region spokesperson Kristie Brown could not be reached for comment as of press time.