Kem Monovithya, the daughter of jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha and a CNRP official, met with United States officials yesterday to discuss the possibility of further sanctions on the Cambodian government if measures taken in an ongoing political crackdown are not reversed.
“The US government made it very clear to the Cambodian government that there will be more actions taken if no reverse of course,” she said in a message yesterday.
Monovithya, whose father has been held in a Tbong Khmum province prison since September 3 on “treason” charges, met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State W Patrick Murphy and pressed for “individual financial sanctions”.
In a recent visit to Cambodia, Murphy said the US had a “variety of measures and tools” that could be used to further sanction Cambodia.
The US has been the most proactive in responding to a crackdown on the opposition, civil society and the media – which has seen Sokha arrested, the opposition dissolved, radio stations shuttered and a host of NGOs facing accusations of involvement in an alleged revolutionary conspiracy.
The US government pulled funding for the NEC after the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP, as did the European Union, and the US also issued visa bans on senior government officials.
Monovithya said she believes further pressure may be imminent, and urged Japan to take a more active role.
“My understanding is the US is talking to like-minded countries including Japan,” she said, calling for “a coordinated, synchronized response”.
Japan has been largely quiet about the recent crackdown, continuing to fund the National Election Committee even after the US and EU pulled out.
Monovithya also met with Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver at the Pentagon yesterday.
“He expressed concerns of the deteriorating situation in Cambodia, in particular the imprisonment of Kem Sokha. I appealed to . . . take the next step in responding to Cambodia crisis,” she said.
Throughout a campaign abroad calling for sanctions, Monovithya has been on the receiving end of government vitriol, and yesterday CPP spokesman Sok Eysan called Monovithya’s appeals “rebellious”.
“It reflects the desperation to seek foreign intervention to kill her own nation, but I think that it bears nothing,” he said.
Eysan said a recent statement from America commemorating the ouster of the Khmer Rouge from Phnom Penh 39 years ago proved that the US would take no further action.
Eysan added that Japan would not take action.
“Japan is an independent country, it has its sovereignty, so it will not follow others, only its own independent decision,” he said, adding that Monovithya will face legal consequences at home.
Such legal manoeuvres may already be underway, with Interior Minister Sar Kheng having recently proposed amending the Constitution to outlaw acts that undermine Cambodia, specifically using Monovithya as an example.
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay said that her appeals shouldn’t be illegal.
“There is no law saying that is rebellion, and each Cambodian has the right to express ideas,” he said.
The US and Japanese embassies did not respond to request for comment.