Cambodia’s legal war against members of the political opposition is violating the rights of opposition lawmakers, according to a resolution recently adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.
The Swiss-based organization that aims to promote the rights of parliamentarians to carry out their work without fear of persecution found that Cambodian opposition politicians “face serious violations of their fundamental rights.”
Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have been engaged in legal attacks on more than a dozen opposition lawmakers in an attempt to neutralize their effectiveness before local commune elections in 2017 and national elections scheduled for 2018, the organization said.
“A total of 15 opposition parliamentarians, including the leaders of the main opposition party, continue to face serious violations of their fundamental rights and are therefore being prevented from effectively playing their role as parliamentarians and members of the opposition freely without fear of persecution, particularly given the fast-approaching local and national elections,” the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) wrote in a decision released this week that was approved on Oct. 27.
The IPU singled out a series of legal cases brought against Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmakers that have resulted in jail time and fines. Included in those cases are legal attacks against CNRP leader Sam Rainsy.
‘The ruling party is attempting to weaken and silence the opposition’
Those cases “demonstrate that the ruling party is attempting to weaken and silence the opposition in order to derail the upcoming 2017 and 2018 local and national elections,” the IPU wrote in its report.
While the IPU criticized the ruling CPP, it urged the two sides to resume talks to resolve the political stalemate, a notion rejected by senior CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun.
“The parliament has been created and so has the government, and the roles and responsibilities of lawmakers have already been assigned,” he told RFA’s Khmer Service.
“If every lawmaker complied with the parliament's internal regulations, constitution and the laws of Cambodia, everything would be all set,” he added. “It’s impossible for the CPP to resume talks about the convictions or personal scandals of public figures.”
‘The IPU sees the current cases as politically motivated’
Sam Rainsy supported the IPU decision, telling RFA that the political crisis should to be resolved through political dialogue not through courts.
“The IPU sees the current cases as politically motivated,” he said. “It urges the political parties to solve them through political dialogue. Those who turn their blind eye to such appeal are unwilling to see the current political tension resolved.”
Sam Rainsy is one of the lawmakers targeted by Hun Sen and the CPP-dominated government, with the IPU saying the CNRP leader “has been targeted by an ever-increasing number of court cases initiated against him.”
The opposition leader has been in exile abroad for a year to avoid a two-year prison sentence handed down in a defamation case. It is not the only conviction handed down by the courts.
In the latest case, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court found the opposition leader guilty of defamation on Nov. 8 for claiming that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s social medial team bought “likes” on Facebook from “click farms” abroad to increase his support.
At the time of his latest conviction, the opposition leader said he could never win in the Cambodian courts because they are “puppets of the government.”
“The court cases brought against me by Hun Sen’s government are an attempt to refrain me from competing in the next elections,” he said.
Reported by Sarada Taing and Nareth Muong for RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Nareth Muong. Written in English by Brooks Boliek.