Former leaders of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) protested in Seoul, South Korea, on Sunday, demanding the reinstatement of its politicians to stand in the Kingdom’s July 29 national elections.
The latest protest follows similar ones held previously in the US, France, New Zealand and Japan.
Speaking to protesters near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, former CNRP lawmaker Mu Sochua urged Japan to suspend aid to Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC).
She said a petition to this effect, signed by Cambodians in the US, South Korea and Thailand, would be handed to the embassy, and that elections held without the CNRP would not be recognised by the international community.
Sochua also demanded a political solution for exiled former CNRP politicians to return to Cambodia without having to face prosecution – something she said would be a move by an “unjust court” beholden to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.
“We demand the return of CNRP leaders, free from the hands of Hun Sen’s unjust court. We must be able to return to Cambodia without the fear of arrest.
“We demand the end to any law that allows the Hun Sen regime’s unjust courts to detain patriots and which forces them into exile.
“We demand the secure right to return – [and if it is granted then] we will go back, but we will not go back in order to be detained,” she said.
Sochua threatened that the demonstrations would continue until her stated demands were met.
“We are Cambodians. We have choices, and our choices are very clear. We will not give legitimacy to Hun Sen’s unfair elections – unjust and not free elections,” she said.
Addressing the 19 parties that will compete with the CPP on July 29, she stressed: “In spite of the participation of other parties, without the CNRP, we cannot accept them as free and fair elections.”
Sochua said the petition would be sent to Japan. “We respect Japan and the Japanese government, so we have made this statement. We urge Japan to withdraw its assistance to the NEC, which is now in the hands of the Cambodian People’s Party,” she said.
South Korean media quoted Cambodian Ambassador to that country Long Dimanche as saying the number of Cambodians at the demonstration was just over 1,000.
This number, he said, is less than two percent of the 60,000 Cambodians working in South Korea. Hence, they did not represent a majority view.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan described the protest as a “normal” part of democracy and said the demonstrators were small in number compared to the thousands of Cambodian in South Korea.
That fact, he said, proved the demonstrators had failed to influence the majority that supports the CPP.
“This is just a trick, collecting names in order to force Japan to comply with [CNRP] demands.
“It’s a big mistake to think the Japanese government is weak and will agree to the demands. There is no way this will happen. Japan will not undermine its independence and sovereignty to bow down to a handful of demonstrators,” Eysan stressed.
He said if the former opposition leaders wished to return to Cambodia, they can do so but will have to face court action which resulted from a complaint by the Ministry of Interior.
“If they are found guilty, they will become ordinary citizens [and not be allowed to enter politics] for five years, according to the final verdict of the Supreme Court,” Eysan said.