The National Assembly of Cambodia yesterday issued a response to the eight US legislators who are lobbying the US Secretary of State for sanctions to be imposed on Cambodia, claiming “the alarming deterioration” of human rights and democracy in the Kingdom.
In a joint letter dated on Monday and addressed to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the eight legislators, namely Senators Edward J Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Dianne Feinstein and Robert P Casey Jr and Members of Congress Lori Trahan, Alan Lowenthal, Seth Moulton and Ted Yoho, condemned the government’s treatment of human rights and democracy over the past months. They called for Pompeo to work with the Department of Treasury to impose targeted sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act against the senior leadership of the CPP — in addition to other measures.
In response, the Kingdom’s National Assembly, in a statement issued yesterday, said the government is disappointed by the accusations made by the US lawmakers.
“The letter published online dated 16 November 2020 addressed to the Honourable Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is fraught with distorted facts, bias and double-standard assertions,” the National Assembly said in its statement.
“Therefore, we are compelled to respond and draw public attention at home and overseas to the reality in Cambodia and the facts about Cambodia’s painful and arduous journey to reach the present state of steady socio-economic progress, thanks to peace and stability that we are firmly committed to protect,” it added.
The Assembly defended Prime Minister Hun Sen, who the eight US legislators have accused of using “violence, intimidation, censorship and corruption” to maintain his power, as well as the actions of the government.
“First, Mr Hun Sen has been leading the country for over 35 years, but his long rule is not unprecedented, at least in Southeast Asia,” it said.
“Contrary to the unfair assertion, his strength to remain in power comes from the strong majority of the people who voted, election after election, in support of his progressive leadership and ability to bring about sustained peace and growing prosperity to the people of Cambodia,” it added.
The NA said that the dissolution of the main opposition party and legal actions against its leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha were carried out because of their attempt to topple the legitimate Cambodian government, which is a serious, punishable crime.
It also defended the arrests of activists and former opposition party members over the past months.
“Freedom of speech is not a blank check for attacking the integrity of other people and stirring up social discord and unrest which endangers public order, safety and national security. Political discourse and comment on public affairs with insult, incitement to commit a felony, call for rebellion against a democratically elected government or ill-intended spread of fake news and disinformation do not equate freedom of expression and legitimate speech,” the NA said.
“Those who have been arrested and have faced legal action, have violated the provisions of Cambodia’s law to maintain public order, safety and national security,” it added.
The NA also criticised the eight US lawmakers’ letter as it relies on data and information provided by Human Rights Watch, describing the organisation’s credibility as “in serious question”.
“This organisation has long been denounced by many for bias and double-standard application of human right norms, with its reliance on information sources such as the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, which are far from being neutral and independent,” the Assembly added.