Si­lenc­ing op­po­si­tion voices threat­ens Cam­bo­dian democ­racy

Manila Times - - WORLD -

CIVIL and po­lit­i­cal rights in Cam­bo­dia are “un­der threat” as the main op­po­si­tion party is be­ing dis­solved in the par­lia­ment, a United Na­tions hu­man rights ex­pert warned Thurs­day, also voic­ing con­cern that the dis­so­lu­tion may af­fect up­com­ing elec­tions in the coun­try.

“For Cam­bo­di­ans to en­gage in open and se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal de­bate, the op­po­si­tion must be al­lowed to ex­ist and to func­tion with­out fear or in­tim­i­da­tion,” said Rhona Smith, the Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on the hu­man rights sit­u­a­tion in Cam­bo­dia, stress­ing that “democ­racy is about voice and choice. These moves risk leav­ing many Cam­bo­di­ans with­out ei­ther.”

The Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party (CNRP) is the only op­po­si­tion party rep­re­sented in the Na­tional Assem­bly. To strip its seats of the par­lia­ment would af­fect Cam­bo­di­ans’ voice and choice at all lev­els of Gov­ern­ment, said Ms. Smith.

She not only raised se­ri­ous con­cerns about the rep­re­sen­ta­tive­ness of gov­ern­ment, but was also wor­ried that the Gov­ern­ment’s moves were “un­der the guise” of rule of law.

The CNRP’s leader, Kem Sokha, re­mains in pre-trial de­ten­tion on con­spir­acy charges, while half of the party mem­bers in par­lia­ment have left the coun­try.

The hu­man rights ex­pert said these ac­tions against the CNRP have cre­ated ad­di­tional grounds for dis­solv­ing the party, and some of which are “broad and vague.”

“Mod­ern Cam­bo­dia was es­tab­lished as a multi-party lib­eral democ­racy, re­spect­ful and pro­tec­tive of hu­man rights. Its Con­sti­tu­tion sought to pre­vent a re­turn to a sin­gle-party state,” said Ms. Smith, adding “those who drafted the Con­sti­tu­tion were all too well aware of the con­se­quences of one-party rule.”

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