QUOTES FROM INTERNATIONAL


No election can be genuine if the main opposition party is barred from taking part... All Cambodians have a right to openly debate and discuss political affairs; the media must be allowed to scrutinize and criticize, as well as inform the public; and civil society, including NGOs, should be encouraged to play an active role in State affairs… A liberal multi-party democracy is an essential, entrenched and non-amendable feature of the Constitution of Cambodia.

Professor Rhona Smith, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, in a statement dated April 30, 2018, entitled ‘UN expert urges government embrace final opportunity for ‘genuine’ election.


As we near the elections scheduled for 29 July this year, our previous optimism has been replaced by deep concern about the recent serious decline of civil and political rights in Cambodia. These backward steps include signs of escalating repression of the political opposition, civil society and media… For the Cambodian Government to retain its legitimacy, any elections must be free, fair and credible… In particular, we urge that the elections take place in a peaceful environment without threats, arbitrary arrests or acts of intimidation, and that all international human rights obligations important for successful elections, such as rights to freedom of expression, press, association and peaceful assembly, are respected, protected and fulfilled.

Statement made by New Zealand on behalf of a group of 45 countries during 37th Session of the Human Rights Council, Geneva, Mar 21, 2018.


While the disintegration of even a pretense of human-rights-respecting democracy in Cambodia has been generating an increasing amount of international media attention in recent times, the reaction of governments around the region and the wider world has been impossibly limp. With Australia no exception… There has been a handful of very cautious expressions of concern at the time of the most egregious misbehavior – the dissolution of the opposition – and a few implausible assurances that appropriately stern messages are being privately given through diplomatic channels. But that has been about it.
It is a tough call in the present regional and wider international environment to identify credible strategies to pull Cambodia back from the brink on which it is indeed now precariously balanced… so that Cambodia will in fact at last become the country we all wanted it to be when, 25 years ago, we finally put to rest the ravages of genocide and civil war.

Gareth Evans, former Australian Foreign Minister and architect of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements on a Comprehensive Political Settlement of the Cambodia Conflict, in an opening remarks ‘Cambodia on the Brink: Towards the 2018 Elections,’ at Australian National University, Canberra, March 9, 2018.


I don’t think the word election applies to what is happening on July 29. It is not an election. Let’s not pretend that it is an election. It is a selection. It is the decision by the CPP and Hun Sen about who will be at the National Assembly because they have excluded the opposition. It is not a democracy. It is a meaningless event! … I want Cambodians to know that the rest of the world still cares about Cambodia. That we support Cambodians aspirations for a genuine democracy and freedom. That we will not let Cambodia slip back into a real one party dictatorship. That the people who committed human rights abuses in Cambodia will one day be held accountable. That Hun Sen has made a very dramatic mistakes because he thinks he can get away with a fake election… And that the Cambodian government cannot just rely on China to survive… Hun Sen has made a grave miscalculation.

Brad Adams, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, in an interview with RFA’s Khmer Service on June 27, 2018.


An effective multi-party democracy requires an opposition that can operate freely without intimidation and threats – and the same goes for a credible, free and fair election. The use of law against the CNRP and its members is a smokescreen – it is the rule by law, and not the rule of law. The accusations against the CNRP and its members were vague, as were the legal provisions supporting the complaint to dissolve it…. People need to be able to debate and discuss freely the political affairs of their country, and the decision to dissolve the CNRP has deprived over three million voters of their representation.

UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, in a statement dated November 17, 2017, entitled ‘UN human rights chief voices concern about Cambodia election after opposition ban.’


The United States expresses grave concern about the Cambodian government’s dissolution of the country’s main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), based on meritless and politicized allegations that it participated in a conspiracy to overthrow the government. It is becoming increasingly evident to the world that the Cambodian government’s restrictions on civil society, suppression of the press, and banning of more than 100 opposition leaders from political activities have significantly set back Cambodia’s democratic development and placed its economic growth and international standing at risk…

Statement dated November 16, 2017, by the US Press Secretary on Setbacks to democracy in Cambodia.


An electoral process from which the main opposition party has been arbitrarily excluded is not legitimate. The enforced dissolution of the CNRP effectively disenfranchises all those who gave the party their support in the elections in 2013 and 2017. A situation in which all parties, including the CNRP, their leaders and their supporters are able to carry out freely their legitimate functions, must be swiftly restored.

Statement dated November 16, 2017, by the EU Spokesperson on the dissolution of Cambodian National Rescue Party.


By dissolving the main opposition party and banning 118 CNRP politicians from political activity for five years, the Supreme Court is irreparably interfering with the rights of potentially millions of Cambodians to freely choose their political representatives and vote for them in the upcoming elections. The fact that the Law on Political Parties was amended to enable the Supreme Court to dissolve political parties shortly before it dissolved the CNRP strongly suggests the entire ‘legal process’ was nothing more than political theatre, inconsistent with human rights and the rule of law… The dissolution of the CNRP sends a strong signal to the international community and all Cambodians that a red-line has been crossed, which makes reconvening the Paris Peace Conference to address the human rights and rule of law crisis within the country all the more urgent.

Kingsley Abbott, the International Commission on Jurists’ Senior International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, in an ICJ press release dated November 16, 2017, entitled ‘The ICJ condemns dissolution of main opposition party.’


The Supreme Court has hammered the final nail in the coffin for Cambodian democracy. Its decision not only leaves the country without its only viable opposition party less than a year before scheduled elections, but also completely undermines Cambodia’s institutional framework and the rule of law. One thing remains crystal clear: the CNRP was dissolved not for breaking any laws, but simply for being too popular and a threat to the ruling party’s dominance…. With the dissolution of the CNRP goes any hope for free and fair elections…

Charles Santiago, APHR Chairperson and a member of the Malaysian Parliament, in a statement dated November 16, 2017, entitled ‘Dissolution of opposition party renders Cambodian elections illegitimate.’


All branches of government managed to have a hand in the destruction of democracy, proving that they’re firmly in the pocket of Prime Minister Hun Sen. The Prime Minister fears he would lose a fair contest, so instead of doing his best to win the support of the people, he has decided to simply change the rules of the game. Dissolving the opposition means dissolving democracy. It renders elections irrelevant and further pushes Cambodia down a slippery slope...

Tom Villarin, an APHR member and Congressman from the Philippines, in a statement dated November 16, 2017, entitled ‘Dissolution of opposition party renders Cambodian elections illegitimate.’


…decision by the Supreme Court to dissolve the CNRP is not only a blatant act of political repression that must be reversed immediately, but also a serious violation of the human rights to freedom of association and expression in Cambodia. The fact that the Court also ruled to ban more than 100 senior CNRP officials from political activity for five years compounds this injustice. This is yet more evidence of how the judiciary in Cambodia is essentially used as an arm of the executive and as a political tool to silence dissent… Sadly, this is just the culmination of several months of threats, rhetoric and outright repression. The authorities have launched a widespread assault on dissent, including by shutting down NGOs and media outlets, and by harassing and jailing human rights defenders. The international community cannot stand idly - it must send a strong signal that this crackdown is unacceptable.

James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, in a statement dated November 16, 2017, entitled ‘Banning of opposition party a ‘blatant act of political repression’.


The dissolution of Cambodia’s opposition party marks a tragedy not only for Cambodia, but for all of those countries that have worked for decades to help rebuild the country from the devastation of the Khmer Rouge genocide. Billions of aid dollars have been spent on supporting Cambodians to develop a democratic system that respects the rule of law and basic human rights…. The country is descending into outright dictatorship. The Cambodian people desperately need the intervention of the international community. Foreign governments must demand that the decision to dissolve the opposition is overturned, that elections next year are free and fair, and that the corrupt are held to account. If these conditions are not met, they should apply targeted sanctions against Prime Minister Hun Sen and his regime that will prevent them from travelling and spending any ill-gotten gains overseas.

Emma Burnett of Global Witness in a press release dated November 16, 2017, entitled ‘Global Witness reacts to the dissolution of Cambodia’s opposition party.’

QUOTES FROM LOCAL EXPERTS


Thun Saray, ADHOC President

We have seen that the latest developments in our country show that democracy, respect for human rights, and the election are devolving and deteriorating. This has caused general concern for our country as well as our society as a whole. We don’t how it is going to develop, either towards more deterioration or toward a better situation. As we have seen during past elections, although they fell short of perfection, at least we somehow respected fundamental principles…Yet now, we see that those fundamental principles have all vanished. This election has the noticeable characteristic of not honoring the principles we used to understand and that have been practiced in other democratic societies. The phrase “free, fair and just election” means freedom in competition and participation, without any intimidation or threats, without discrimination among competitors, and among citizens who are taking part in the election. Therefore, the important thing is that we hold an election that is free from fear. I’ve noticed that, in general, in our present context, our citizens live in fear. I don’t want to say anything that affects any political party. But I am of the opinion that our ordinary citizens, the international community and those with consciousness clearly understand the process of a free, fair and just election.


Kul Panha, COMFREL executive director

We want to have a free, fair and just election in accordance with democratic and pluralistic principles, with full participation from all political parties, both the ruling parties, the opposition, and other parties as well as independent groups. A genuine election must not exclude other parties, in particular the opposition party, the main opposition party, from being able to take part in the election. This is crucial in order to ensure that the election is free, fair, just and genuinely in compliance with multi-party pluralistic and democratic principles…. We must make all-out efforts to organize an election appropriately, in particular on the government side. Politicians must ensure that the election is organized properly so that its results and legitimacy can be recognized by citizens who expressed their will in supporting various political parties. This is in order that they can express their will freely and without any threats. How should we proceed with such electoral ideal? We must find measures to ensure it. The government side, authorities, and political parties taking part in the election must make all efforts in seeking means to ensure that the election is being held in accordance with the principles of equity, and that the competition accepted by all.


Korn Savang, COMFREL election observer

In my opinion, in order that all stakeholders as well as all political parties can accept [the results of the election], firstly, the most important point is laws that ensure the will of the citizens. Any amendments made to the laws to suit political trends, and that fail to comply with democratic principles, lead to disputes and not satisfaction. This also displeases all citizens, nations and international community. Legal principles governing the electoral process that cannot guarantee the respect for the citizens’ will should be subject to change and reversion so as to ensure that the laws truly respect the will of the citizens. Second, political parties taking part in the election must be provided with equal opportunities, in particular political parties that enjoy support of the people. They should be guaranteed that their voices are respected so that the results of the election can be accepted by all.


Pa Nguon Teang, Executive Director of Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)

With regard to this election, we have seen that the international community --including both the US and the EU, and lately Japan -- already has stated that it is an unfair and unjust election. These countries have called for free, fair, and just elections that reflect the genuine will of Cambodians. They raised their concerns following the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). But the question is, as Cambodian citizens, when the international community has tried to protect fairness and justice, will we join them in calling for such fairness and justice? Do we think that we are a nation that loves justice and wants to have free, fair and just elections? I think that we can employ our rights as voters in deciding whether we will vote. Should we decide not to, this will be a sign to show our rulers that we oppose injustice. However, should we receive any threats, should we worry about such threats, we may go to vote. Yet, we know that there is a secret room for voting and so we may do whatever we want. Either we mark the ballot to become invalid or we write any message in order to reflect our will as Cambodian citizens. I therefore ask Cambodian citizens to use this opportunity to use your rights in order to rescue democracy and revive Cambodia once again!


Meas Nee, Political Commentator

I don’t want to comment on whether this election is good, since now the rice is already cooked! And should I dare to voice any criticism directly, I will have trouble with my personal safety. As for the judgment on this election whether it is appropriate or not, I am of the opinion that both the international community and local Cambodian citizens, in particular, those 3 million Cambodian citizens who have been supporting the now dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), I think they can speak on my behalf… What I can really say is that this election does not meet standard indicators of free, fair and just. If we are to measure this election by those indicators, we are considerably far behind.


Sophal Ear, Author and Policy Analyst

Regarding this election, my view is that it is, to say it in a shortest way as possible, a fake election. This is because you have 20 parties, one of which is the Cambodian People’s Party and 19 which are small parties. There is the Grassroots Democracy Party (GDP). That is probably the best known party. There are some other better known parties. But how did the GDP do in 2017 commune elections? Nothing, right? I think Nhek Bun Chhay’s party got one commune chief position in the commune election. Come on! This is not a race! You don’t want to watch a race like that. It is a one-horse race. It doesn’t make any sense. We should just save the money and not proceed with an election that is a sham.