FOUR American lawmakers have submitted a resolution in the United States Congress condemning the “pervasive corruption” of the Cambodian government following a hearing in Washington last month that assessed the Kingdom’s human rights situation.
On September 10, three Cambodians – Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Mu Sochua, Licadho rights group president Kek Galabru and Community Legal Education Centre labour programme head Moeun Tola – testified in front of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, a US congressional body that monitors international human rights norms. All three offered pointed criticisms of the Cambodian government, with Mu Sochua testifying that democracy in Cambodia is currently experiencing “an alarming free fall”.
On Thursday, California congressman Ed Royce submitted a three-page resolution on behalf of himself, Tom Lantos Commission co-chairman Frank Wolf and congressmen Jim Moran and Joseph Cao, accusing the Cambodian government of a litany of human rights abuses.
The resolution registered particular concern over the July 2008 murder of opposition journalist Khim Sambo and the August defamation
conviction of Mu Sochua, and cited the Global Witness rights group’s description of Cambodia as a state “run by a kleptocratic elite that generates much of its wealth via the seizure of public assets”.
Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) lawmaker Cheam Yeap called the resolution “slander”, and reiterated the CPP complaint that the American hearing was biased because representatives of the Cambodian government were not invited to testify.
“The US House of Representatives should focus on its own work rather than interfering with Cambodia’s Assembly,” Cheam Yeap said, adding that the resolution had “damaged [Cambodia’s] reputation”.
Witnesses voice approval
Moeun Tola said he welcomed the resolution and hoped that its focus on corruption would spur speedy passage of the long-promised anticorruption law.
“One of the biggest problems for business in Cambodia is corruption,” he said, adding: “If we have full respect of investment laws and [other] existing laws, we can have full trust from foreign investors.”
Though the Congressional motion lacks legal force, Mu Sochua noted, it is a sign of the success of last month’s hearing in raising awareness of the challenges facing Cambodia.
“Although the resolution is not binding, it is an acknowledgement by the signatories that the situation of human rights, corruption, rule of law and human trafficking is of grave concern,” she said.