US Senator Dick Durbin spoke about the deteriorating political situation in Cambodia on Saturday, standing alongside opposition figure Kem Monovithya.
Monovithya’s father, opposition leader Kem Sokha, was arrested in September on widely decried charges of “treason”, with his Cambodia National Rescue Party – the country’s only viable opposition – forcibly dissolved shortly thereafter.
“This event is for you, to show our appreciation for all that you have done,” Monovithya said to Durbin in opening, adding that he had been “instrumental” in efforts to restore democracy in Cambodia.
The Democratic senator from Illinois has consistently been one of the most vocal critics of Hun Sen’s regime since the political crackdown began. Last month, he co-sponsored a bill by Senator Lindsay Graham which, if passed, would impose asset freezes and other measures against Cambodia.
Later that month, the United States announced aid cuts to various programs in the Kingdom.
“We are not going to send money until we see progress,” said Durbin.
Durbin praised journalists for having the “courage” to continue operating in the country, and noted that people “are being jailed and killed in Cambodia today simply because they are exercising the basic freedoms”.
The Senator warned that if progress is not made, the US government may take the issue up at the United Nations and consider trade sanctions.
He also said the United States should publicly condemn July’s scheduled national election as “illegitimate”.
Meanwhile, demonstrations continued in the US and Europe, with Cambodian-Americans burning effigies of Hun Sen in Long Beach, California.
In Brussels, protesters gathered in front of the office of EU Foreign Affairs representative Federica Mogherini, demanding trade sanctions.
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party, said protests were useless and maintained Monovithya’s efforts to “put pressure” on the government have failed.
He said Prime Minister Hun Sen had already been invited to October’s Asia-Europe Meeting, calling it a “hammer strike on the head of the opposition”.