Congressman Lowenthal, Colleagues, Call On State Dept to Condemn Arrest of Cambodian Opposition Leader Kem Sokha
Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today joined with eight of his House colleagues in calling on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to "swiftly and publically condemn" the recent arrest of Cambodian opposition party leader Kem Sokha for treason by the Cambodian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.
The arrest of Kem Sokha is the latest event in an ongoing escalation of political repression by the authoritarian Hun Sen government—which has ruled Cambodia for more than 30 years—as the nation heads toward national elections next year.
In a bipartisan letter to Secretary Tillerson delivered Friday, Congressman Lowenthal and his colleagues point out that "Hun Sen has conducted a widespread and systematic crackdown on independent press outlets such as Radio Free Asia and the Voice of America. The forced closure of the non-profit National Democratic Institute is yet another example of the Cambodian government's efforts to marginalize democratic advancements. Before this year's commune elections in June, his government engaged in voter intimidation and threatened civil war… We are particularly concerned with Hun Sen's unfounded allegations that the United States has collaborated with Kem Sokha to destabilize the country."
The Members—representing the entire membership of the Congressional Cambodian Caucus—urged the State Department to "work with our regional allies and the wider international community to use all necessary diplomatic means to compel the Hun Sen government to adhere to democratic norms and the rule of law. Disagreement, party organization, grassroots activism, and political rhetoric do not constitute treason. The marginalization of opposition parties in Cambodia ensures that any upcoming elections will not be free or fair."
The letter closes by urging the Secretary and the State Department to "address these concerns with Prime Minister Hun Sen and to press the Cambodian government to respect the rights of its own citizens by allowing for freedom of the press and respecting a free and fair election. Cambodia must take these steps if it wishes to seek greater economic and strategic ties with the United States and the rest of the international community."The letter was signed by: Reps. Nanette Barragan (CA-44), Steve Chabot (OH-01), Eliot Engel (NY-16), Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), Ed Royce (CA-39), Brad Sherman (CA-30), and Niki Tsongas (MA-03).