It’s about the rule of law, not anti-Americanism

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The United States’ embassy in Phnom Penh. KT/Chor Sokunthea

There is rising concern over the widespread use of fake news concerning recent political developments in Cambodia. For instance, some news reports purportedly characterise Cambodia’s measures against some international organisations and news outlets as an act of anti-Americanism.

Actually, it is just the practice of the rule of law in Cambodia.

The Cambodian constitution stipulates that “the exercise of personal rights and liberties by any individual shall not adversely affect the rights and freedom of others. The exercise of such rights and liberties shall be in accordance with the law”.

Freedom of speech must be in accordance with the law.

The Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations adopted in 2015 provides a legal framework to better govern the activities of NGOs in Cambodia and in turn generate greater positive impacts on society. The state has a responsibility to ensure that civil society organisations are operated smoothly and productively under the rule of law.

Civil society groups have played significant roles in the socio-economic development of Cambodia since the early 1990s. Democracy and human rights have been gradually promoted, although there are remaining obstacles and challenges to be overcome.

The members of the National Assembly have the responsibility to ensure that the government strictly follows the principles of democracy and human rights as stipulated in the constitution and international treaties.

Cambodian society has embraced democratic values. The government appreciates and respects the principles of human rights and democracy. Political space is provided and enabled for social actors to engage and contribute in building the country together.

The state-society relationship has been strengthened over time.

The individuals and organisations that are found to be violating the laws are responsible before the law. No one is above the law. Everyone is equal before the law.

The law is created to govern the country for the betterment of the whole society, without discrimination. There is no public order without the rule of law.

Unfortunately, some organisations and individuals are from or related to the US. Hence, some seasonal analysts and self-imposed experts on Cambodia opine that Cambodia is carrying out anti-American propaganda and plans.

It is not true by all accounts.

Cambodia has regarded the US as the most powerful superpower in the world. As a small state, Cambodia must build good relations with the US for its own survival and interest.

Currently, no country can compete with the US’s smart power, the combination of hard and soft powers.

Cambodia views the US as the core, responsible actor in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

The US is one of the main markets for Cambodian exports, particularly textile products. Bilateral economic ties have been strengthened remarkably in the past decade.

The bilateral trade volume reached $3 billion in 2016, while the total US investment capital was $122 million. The people bonds between the two countries are also significant.

There is no reason for Cambodia to carry out anti-Americanism given it does not serve Cambodia’s national interests at all. Strategic diversification and partnership with all major powers serve Cambodia’s long-term strategic interests.

Cambodia just wants the US to respect its sovereignty and independence. As members of the United Nations, we need to treat each other based on the “principle of the sovereign equality”.

Regardless of size, power and wealth, all nation states should have equal sovereignty.

“All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state,” stipulates the UN Charter.

Historical memory remains fresh among Cambodians. The US intervention in Cambodia’s domestic politics in late 1960s and early 1970s, and in the following decades, caused huge damage to the Cambodian people.

The US was responsible for the past atrocities in Cambodia. But instead of reconciling the past, the US keeps asking to pay the “dirty debt” of about $500 million. The US’s demand for Cambodia to pay the debt incurred during the war was morally unjustifiable.

It damages the global image of the US as a superpower.

While the US is lecturing the world about democracy and human rights, at home there are serious violations of human rights and democracy. It is advisable that the US should keep its house in order first before lecturing others about democracy.

A country cannot exercise its global role effectively if it does not have unity and order at home.

Mutual respect is critical in maintaining global peace and order. If we allow major powers to bully small countries, then our world will become an anarchic world.

We need to respect international laws and the rule of the law. Cambodia is doing its part to ensure that peace and order is preserved under the rule of law, not by forces or coercion.

As a member of the parliament of an independent and sovereign state, I call upon the US Congress to be prudent and cautious in taking decisions on Cambodia based on one-sided views and fake news.

Cambodia respects the leadership role of the US in maintaining peace and promoting prosperity in the Asia Pacific region and would like to see the US actively engaged in the region for common interests.

Meanwhile, Cambodia needs the US to respect the sovereignty and independence of other states and wishes to see the US to be the anchor of a just and fair international order.

Suos Yara,

a member of the National Assembly of Cambodia.

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