The Ministry of Interior is investigating the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights after Prime Minister Hun Sen called for its closure because it was founded by detained opposition CNRP leader Kem Sokha, who is accused of plotting to overthrow the government with the help of the United States.
Mr Hun Sen on Monday called for the closure of the prominent human rights group because it was founded by Mr Sokha whom he accuses of working with the US to topple the legitimate government through a colour revolution.
Interior Minister Sar Khneg said it is not only CCHR that is under the microscope, but all NGOs.
“Not only CCHR, all the other NGOs… we control them following regulations that are kept at the Ministry of Interior,” he said. “I cannot say when CCHR will be shut down or if it won’t be, we need to have a clear reason to shut it down first.
“We cannot do anything without a reason.”
Mr Hun Sen on Monday likened the organisation to a puppet of the US government.
“The Ministry of Interior should check, because they were created by foreigners, not Khmers. If it’s an international NGO, and they come to create it and ask our permission, it’s not an issue,” he said. “But this one is registered as Khmer and was created by foreigners to do this and do that.”
The CCHR was founded by Mr Sokha in 2002 before he returned to a political career in 2007.
Mr Sokha was arrested in September and charged with treason for an alleged plot to take power with American help. His opposition CNRP was dissolved on November 16 by the Supreme Court at the government’s request.
Chak Sopheap, president of CCHR, said they are confident that any independent and impartial investigation into CCHR will show only one thing – the absence of any wrong doing on the part of CCHR.
“As repeatedly stated, we are completely independent of all political parties, and have absolutely no interest in ‘toppling’ the government,” she said.
“Our focus is the promotion of fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Cambodian constitution in the pursuit of Cambodia’s inclusive and sustainable development.”
“We, and independent civil society groups in general, should be viewed as key partners in Cambodia’s development, not enemies of the authorities,” she added.
“We believe that this situation is based on a misunderstanding about the nature of CCHR’s work, and we hope that through open and meaningful dialogue, we can clarify our position and the nature of our work, in order to ensure that CCHR can continue to operate in the future.”
Pa Nguon Teang, executive director of Cambodian Centre for Independent Media, said he helped Mr Sokha form CCHR in 2002, with proper government registration and with the goal to promote human rights.
Human Rights Watch yesterday issued a press release urging donor governments to intervene and prevent the closure of CCHR.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen needed little time after shutting down the main opposition party to go after a major human rights group,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the investigation to be carried out by the Interior Ministry will reveal the truth.
“Based on this investigation, we can assess and conclude if CCHR should be allowed to continue to exist,” he said.