Euro­pean Union, rights groups urge Cam­bo­dia to halt at­tack on op­po­si­tion

The Myanmar Times - - Asean Focus -

THE Euro­pean Union and rights groups say the Cam­bo­dian gov­ern­ment’s move to dis­solve the main op­po­si­tion party would be a se­ri­ous blow to democ­racy that un­der­mines the cred­i­bil­ity of elec­tions next year.

Hu­man Rights Watch said Tues­day that the gov­ern­ment of long-serv­ing Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen is mak­ing a “naked grab for to­tal power.”

Cam­bo­dia’s gov­ern­ment took ini­tial le­gal steps last week to dis­solve the pop­u­lar Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party, the latest move to kneecap the op­po­si­tion ahead of next year’s general elec­tion.

Two mi­nor po­lit­i­cal par­ties be­lieved to be op­er­at­ing on be­half of the gov­ern­ment have asked the Supreme Court to dis­band the op­po­si­tion on the grounds that it was al­legedly in­volved in a US-backed plot to top­ple Hun Sen’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Hu­man Rights Watch along with other rights groups and the Euro­pean Union are call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to drop the court case.

“Gov­ern­ments that still in­sist Cam­bo­dia is demo­crat­i­cally ruled should act to re­verse this de­vel­op­ment, or share the blame for democ­racy’s demise un­der Hun Sen’s au­to­cratic rule,” Hu­man Rights Watch said. An EU state­ment said the sit­u­a­tion is “very wor­ry­ing” and urged the gov­ern­ment to re­con­sider the le­gal steps.

The CNRP is the only party aside from the rul­ing Cam­bo­dian Peo­ple’s Party with rep­re­sen­ta­tives in par­lia­ment, and no third party comes close in terms of pop­u­lar­ity and sup­port. The CNRP posed an un­ex­pect­edly strong chal­lenge in 2013’s general elec­tion and the gov­ern­ment has since taken steps to tighten its grip on power.

The party has de­nied seek­ing to un­law­fully or vi­o­lently over­throw the gov­ern­ment, say­ing the charge is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

If the Supreme Court finds the op­po­si­tion party guilty of vi­o­lat­ing the Po­lit­i­cal Party Law, not only would it be dis­solved, but its lead­ers would be banned from in­volve­ment in pol­i­tics for five years.

The court is likely to up­hold the com­plaint, since the coun­try’s ju­di­ciary is widely con­sid­ered to op­er­ate at the be­hest of Hun Sen.

Son Ch­hay, a se­nior op­po­si­tion politi­cian, said mil­lions of Cam­bo­di­ans sup­port the CNRP and the rul­ing party should re­sume di­a­logue with it rather than tak­ing steps that will dam­age Cam­bo­dia’s rep­u­ta­tion. – AP

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