A call to the world’s parliamentarians: Help save Cambodian democracy

CPP lawmakers vote in favour of controversial amendments to the Law on Political Parties during a National Assembly session in July. The law effectively forbids former opposition leader Sam Rainsy from participating in the Kingdom’s politics.
CPP lawmakers vote in favour of controversial amendments to the Law on Political Parties during a National Assembly session in July. The law effectively forbids former opposition leader Sam Rainsy from participating in the Kingdom’s politics. Pha Lina

A call to the world’s parliamentarians: Help save Cambodian democracy

At the Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting currently taking place in Saint Petersburg for its 137th assembly, gathering representatives of the world’s 173 parliaments, I appeal to these parliaments for their help to save the principle of parliamentary representation, in Cambodia.

In the Cambodian National Assembly, the 123 deputies are divided between two political parties, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, which has 68 seats, and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), which has 55 seats.

New legislative elections are scheduled for July 2018 and independent observers are in agreement that, in the light of growing popular discontent, the opposition will make further advances, which have every prospect of bringing it to power and ending the uninterrupted rule of the CPP which has lasted 38 years.

At this crucial juncture, the government carried out last month the arrest and imprisonment of the head of the CNRP, the leader of the opposition, Kem Sokha, based on claims of “national treason” and “sedition to overturn the government”. Hun Sen further announced, in recent days, the dissolution of the CNRP, based on the same logic.

The CPP and the government have recently amended laws on political parties and elections to give themselves the right to dissolve the CNRP at any moment, safe in the knowledge that the police and the courts are at their behest.

The dissolution of the CNRP will mean that its 55 democratically elected deputies will automatically and collectively lose their parliamentary mandate created by universal suffrage. This constitutes a grave breach of Cambodia’s commitment to democracy created and guaranteed by the Paris peace agreement signed under the aegis of the United Nations in 1991.

The anti-democratic accusations and actions of the government against the CNRP have been condemned by the United Nations, the European Parliament and governments around the world, as well as by many human rights organisations.

As a representative of the Cambodian people elected and re-elected since 1993, and a former leader of the opposition in forced exile, I respectfully ask for the support of the world’s parliamentarians to help their elected colleagues in the CNRP and defend the very principle of parliamentary representation.

Sam Rainsy
Paris

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