Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - US envoy criticises violent crackdown

US envoy criticises violent crackdown

Military police move towards protesting workers amid falling Molotov cocktails on Veng Sreng Boulevard
Military police move towards protesting workers amid falling Molotov cocktails on Veng Sreng Boulevard on January 3. POST STAFF

US envoy criticises violent crackdown

US ambassador to Cambodia William Todd has weighed in on the government’s brutal crackdown on striking garment workers earlier this month, calling the confrontation and subsequent ban on demonstrations
a “significant setback” in the Kingdom’s democratic development.

In his first “Ask the Ambassador” column of 2014, Todd criticises the government’s use of military units to control protesting workers on January 2 and 3, which resulted in at least four deaths and 26 injuries from bullets, according to rights group Licadho.

“While the United States recognizes the fundamental responsibility of the Royal Government to maintain order and protect the general welfare of its people, appropriate proportional responses must be used,” he writes in the column published yesterday.

“Part of exercising restraint is adhering to the rule of posse comitatus, which prohibits the use of military force in responding to civilian crises.”

Ambassador Todd also said he was “deeply disappointed” in Phnom Penh Municipality’s decision to ban opposition demonstrations – enacted following a violent clear out of Freedom Park on January 4 – and called for renewed talks.

“The need for sustained dialogue between the two major political parties is more urgent than ever,” he writes, despite noting that court summonses issued for opposition and union leaders are likely to stymie productive talks.

“I am equally concerned about the 23 detained protesters in Kampong Cham and the apparent violation of their basic rights guaranteed by the Cambodian constitution,” Todd added, saying that transparent and fair judicial proceedings for the arrestees and summonsed leaders would show the government’s willingness to work with the opposition and protesters.

“It is only through the hard work of negotiation and compromise that a sustainable and equitable way forward can be found.”

Todd, who cut his end of year holiday short to return to Cambodia after the clashes, makes no mention of any punitive action if disproportionate military responses are again used by authorities against protesters.

Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh yesterday said he would not “speculate on that point”.

MOST VIEWED

  • US names new ambassador to Cambodia

    US President Donald Trump on Friday appointed W Patrick Murphy as the new US Ambassador to Cambodia, replacing incumbent William A Heidt. A press release posted on the White House’s website said nominee W Patrick Murphy is currently acting principal deputy assistant secretary at

  • Kingdom is at a crossroads between East, West after poll

    It was dubbed a success by caretaker prime minister Hun Sen after the electoral victory of his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), which is poised to take all seats in the National Assembly. But the July 29 national election has not been positively looked at by

  • Chinese influence to sweep Kingdom?

    Growing Cambodia-China ties have seen the latter’s influence sweep across the Kingdom through increased investments and tourism. The Asian giant has become the leading source of foreign funds in Cambodia, fuelling the construction sector with huge casino and hotel projects. Much of the growth

  • Final poll results confirm first single-party Assembly

    IN an unprecedented situation in Cambodian politics, the official results of the July 29 national elections have declared that the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) will take all 125 seats in the National Assembly on the back of it receiving 76 per cent of the votes. The National