US Em­bassy urges rec­on­cil­i­a­tion

The Phnom Penh Post - - NATIONAL - Mech Dara

THE US has urged Cam­bo­dia to re­store the in­de­pen­dence of the me­dia, drop charges against Kem Sokha and other po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, and end the pro­hi­bi­tion of po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity by op­po­si­tion par­ties.

How­ever, se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cials see the re­quest, is­sued by US em­bassy spokesman Arend C Zwart­jes, as in­ter­fer­ence in Cam­bo­dia’s in­ter­nal af­fairs, and told the US to “get their hands off ”.

It came af­ter In­te­rior Min­is­ter Sar Kheng said on Tues­day that some for­mer Cam­bo­dia Na­tional Res­cue Party (CNRP) of­fi­cials, who were banned by the Supreme Court from en­gag­ing in po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties for five years and have re­spected the court’s ver­dict, might be able to re­cover their rights and re­sume their po­lit­i­cal ca­reers.

Sar Kheng also wel­comed the re­open­ing of the Ph­nom Penh of­fices of Ra­dio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of Amer­ica ( VOA).

Zwart­jes said via email: “We are aware of [Sar Kheng’s] state­ment and urge the govern­ment of Cam­bo­dia to pro­mote na­tional rec­on­cil­i­a­tion by restor­ing in­de­pen­dent me­dia, re­leas­ing and drop­ping all charges against Kem Sokha and other po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers, and end­ing the ban on the po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion.

“As we have said re­peat­edly, the Govern­ment of Cam­bo­dia should al­low civil so­ci­ety and in­de­pen­dent me­dia to carry out their con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected work un­hin­dered, and with­out threats of ar­rest.

“We also urge it to al­low both RFA and VOA pro­grammes to once again be broad­cast freely on Cam­bo­dian ra­dio sta­tions, con­sis­tent with the govern­ment’s stated com­mit­ment to a free press.”

Govern­ment spokesman Phay Siphan re­sponded: “We can see that the state­ment aims to con­trol Cam­bo­dia. Cam­bo­dia is ca­pa­ble enough of main­tain­ing po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity and peace and we ask out­siders to get their hands off.

“Re­cently, the Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs is­sued its state­ment to ease the in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal af­fairs of Cam­bo­dia, so we do not want a for­eign coun­try in­ter­fer­ing in the govern­ment’s de­ci­sion. The govern­ment is ca­pa­ble enough to solve its in­ter­nal af­fairs,” he said.

Siphan said that VOA and RFA are free to re­open their of­fices in Ph­nom Penh since the govern­ment had not pres­sured them or closed their of­fices. Rather, they vol­un­tar­ily shut their of­fices down them­selves.

“We want to con­firm again, the govern­ment does not have any in­ten­tion of shut­ting down the US’ ra­dio sta­tions.

“For in­stance, I as well as other govern­ment of­fi­cials con­tinue to give in­ter­views on RFA and Cam­bo­di­ans also con­tinue to re­ceive broad­casts from RFA and VOA,” he stressed.

Siphan de­fended the govern­ment ta k ing lega l ac­tion against ra­dio stat ions.

He said they must re­spect Cam­bo­dian laws as they use Cam­bo­dian fre­quen­cies and re­sources.

The ar­rest of two for­mer RFA staff mem­bers, he said, was ac­tion taken through the le­gal process.

At a meet­ing be­tween Prime Min­is­ter Hun Sen and out­go­ing US Am­bas­sador to Cam­bo­dia William A Heidt in Novem­ber, Heidt urged the govern­ment to con­tinue to im­prove bi­lat­eral re­la­tions and re­lease Sokha.

RFA closed down its of­fice in Septem­ber last year, while the Cam­bo­dia Daily ceased op­er­a­tions on Septem­ber 4, last year, af­ter fail­ing to pay $6 mil­lion in tax ar­rears.

POST STAFF

A mo­torist passes the US Em­bassy in Ph­nom Penh. Its spokesper­son on Wed­nes­day is­sued a state­ment call­ing on the govern­ment to re­store me­dia in­de­pen­dence and end pro­hi­bi­tion of po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity by op­po­si­tion par­ties.

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