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Government slams the IPU’s call to release Kem Sokha

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Kem Sokha is currently on bail at his home in Phnom Penh under court-imposed conditions. Sreng Meng Srun

Government slams the IPU’s call to release Kem Sokha

The Cambodian delegation to the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva has slammed the body’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians after it called for the “immediate release” of former opposition leader Kem Sokha, decrying its reliance on “politically motivated and one-sided sources”.

Kem Sokha is currently on bail at his home in Phnom Penh under court-imposed conditions, which one of his lawyers said were so strict they amounted to house arrest.

However, the president of the Cambodia National Rescue Movement, Sam Rainsy, welcomed the move and urged the IPU to “continue defending the rights of the elected representatives of the Cambodian people”.

In a four-page resolution dated Thursday, the IPU, which is an international institution consisting of the national parliaments of 173 countries, listed the names of senior officials from the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and suggested 12 points regarding the political situation in the Kingdom.

It urged “once again all Cambodian authorities to immediately release Kem Sokha and drop the charges [against him] to allow him to resume his duties as president of the opposition without further delay and restriction, and to reinstate the CNRP”.

The Cambodian delegation to the IPU, led by second vice-president of the National Assembly Khuon Sodary, said it was “disappointed” that the Committee seemed to “not take seriously the credible and abundant information it had provided, instead choosing to rely on politically motivated and one-sided sources”.

“The Committee has painted Cambodia with a dark brush in producing this biased resolution, ignoring the reality on the ground and the tragic path of hard-earned peace, stability and development of Cambodia,” the delegation said.

The delegation said the July 29 elections in Cambodia were deemed free, fair and transparent by both national and international observers.

Regarding the issues related to Cambodia, it said Sokha is not under house arrest and the people listed by the IPU were no longer members of the Cambodian National Assembly and so did not come under the Committee’s remit.

“My delegation wishes to make clear on the issue relating to Kem Sokha that the charged person has been transferred from pre-trial detention to reside at his house under court conditions, which is purely a humanitarian act, conducted under the prerogative of the investigating judge,” Sodary said. “There is no provision for house arrest under Cambodian law.”

Sam Rainsy, a former CNRP president, thanked the IPU for issuing the statement, which he regarded as being in defence of the rights of Cambodian lawmakers.

“We were not able to take part in the [July 29] national elections, so the ruling party won 100 per cent of the seats in the National Assembly,” Rainsy said. “Definitely, this National Assembly is not legitimate. It does not represent the will of the Cambodian people.

“It is why I urge the IPU to continue to defend the rights of the elected representatives of the Cambodian people, and to [reject the legitimacy of] any representative of the current National Assembly, who was elected without the participation of the opposition.

“We would like to see our party reinstated and so be able to take part in democratic elections as soon as possible,” Rainsy said.

IPU president Gabriela Cuevas Barron last week refuted a claim by the National Assembly that she “highly appreciated the achievements of Cambodia” in the 2018 national elections.

Writing on Twitter on Wednesday evening, Cuevas Barron rejected the claim, saying: “Of course not!”

“Of course not!” she wrote. “Thanks for asking. 1. [We] asked them to allow a mission from @IPU parliament to speak with the [government] and also to go and see opposition parties and people in jail. 2. I questioned about the cases of human rights violations that we documented at IPU. 3. No congratulations.”

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