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Government threatens ‘action’ if IPU ‘extremists’ violate sovereignty

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Newly-elected CPP parliamentarians pose for a group photo with the King in front of The National Assembly in September 2018. Heng Chivoan

Government threatens ‘action’ if IPU ‘extremists’ violate sovereignty

NATIONAL Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long on Wednesday threatened unspecified “action” against the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) if “extremists” violated Cambodian sovereignty, as the body hit back at claims of interference by saying it was simply insisting on “due process”.

Peng Long accused the IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians of listening solely to reports from the former opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) while ignoring explanations from the government’s delegation to the IPU General Assembly in Geneva last month.

He said the body had previously listened to reports from the outlawed opposition and discounted efforts from the government to explain that the CNRP had been dissolved by the Supreme Court – meaning senior officials of the party were no longer parliamentarians.

Referring to the CNRP, he accused officials in the IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians of being “extremists” who supported a “ghost” – a situation the National Assembly could not accept.

“The IPU has recognised our National Assembly and invited us to formally attend its General Assembly [in Geneva last month]. So why does the IPU keep protecting these people [the CNRP]? The IPU has gone beyond its authority, and we cannot accept this."

“We explained the situation, and we explained it several times, but they did not listen. Therefore, it means that first, they are biased towards the side they support, and secondly, there are human rights officials in the IPU Committee who are extremists supporting the former opposition party,” he said.

He continued that if there was a “violation” affecting Cambodia’s sovereignty, the government would take action, without specifying what form this would take.

“We cannot accept anything that affects the sovereignty and territorial integrity [of Cambodia]. This is the principle of the Cambodian government,” he stressed.

IPU communications director Thomas Fitzsimons told The Post on Tuesday night that the body seeks to protect the integrity of parliamentarians and ensure that MPs can carry out their functions in an “unimpeded fashion”.

“The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians is actively following around 500 cases of MPs worldwide whose rights are being infringed, including Cambodian MPs,” he said.

Fitzsimons said the IPU’s work should not be interpreted as “interference” in a country’s internal affairs.

“The IPU’s work should not be construed as interference in the judicial processes of countries. We are simply asking the judicial authority or parliamentary authority to follow due process and to uphold MPs’ rights,” he stressed.

The IPU reaction came after a government spokesman said Cambodia reserved the right to “withdraw its membership” from the body if there was “interference” in the Kingdom’s sovereignty and interests, just as other countries had withdrawn from international institutions they believed had violated their sovereignty.

On October 18, the IPU’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians had issued a four-page resolution featuring 12 points that urged the “immediate release” of bailed former CNRP president Kem Sokha and for treason charges against him to be dropped “without further delay and restriction”.

This, it said, would allow him to resume his duties as leader of the opposition. The resolution also called for the reinstatement of the CNRP as a political entity.

The Cambodian delegation to Geneva led by the deputy vice-president of the National Assembly, Khuon Sodary, issued a statement rejecting the resolution and accusing the committee of painting Cambodia “with a dark brush” to produce a “biased” report.

However, former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath said: “If the current [National Assembly], a one-party parliament, looked back over their violations of opposition lawmakers’ rights, the withdrawal of their immunity and their removal [from office], as well as [CNRP] commune council members, then they would find the IPU statement accurate.”

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said on Sunday that Cambodia would “not change its stance”.

“We cannot [consider] any statement or pressure which orders Cambodia to violate or annul the verdict of the Supreme Court because we believe Cambodia is in a state of strengthening its rule of law,” he said.

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