Congressman Lowenthal Resolution Calling For Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia Passes Out of Subcommittee
A House of Representatives bipartisan resolution authored by Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and Congressman Matt Salmon (AZ-05) calling for the respect of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Cambodia unanimously passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee. The resolution now heads to the full House Foreign Affairs Committee for consideration.
"I am deeply concerned that there is an accelerated deterioration of democracy and human rights in Cambodia," Congressman Lowenthal said. "This resolution states, unequivocally, that the United States supports an environment in Cambodia that not only respects political opposition, but both human rights and the rule of law."
The resolution points out that under the nearly 30-year rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, political freedom in Cambodia has been under increasing threat from the Hun Sen government.
"It is critical for Cambodia's standing in the global community that the upcoming general election in 2017 and 2018 be free and fair," Congressman Lowenthal said. "Credibility for this election can only be achieved if the Hun Sen government ends all political repression and respects the rights and freedoms of the Cambodian people."
The credibility of the last general election, held in 2013, was criticized by numerous domestic and international organizations.
While the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the country's main opposition party, made historic gains in the 2013 election, opposition party members face continual harassment by security forces and the Cambodian government. The government of Hun Sen has acted to restrict not only the political opposition, but civil society, nongovernmental organizations, and independent media.
Since the 2013 elections, opposition parliamentarians have been expelled from parliament, harassed by the government, and even attacked in the streets of Phnom Penh.
Last year, Freedom House rated Cambodia as "Not Free" in its "Freedom in the World 2015" report, noting that in Cambodia "political opposition is restricted," "harassment or threats against opposition supporters are not uncommon," "freedom of speech is not fully protected," and "the government's tolerance for freedoms of association and assembly has declined in recent years."
The resolution also condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia and urges the cessation of ongoing human rights violations by the Cambodian government. It calls on the Cambodian government to respect freedom of the press and the rights of its citizens to freely assemble, protest, and speak out against the government. It also supports electoral reform efforts in Cambodia and free and fair elections in 2017 and 2018 monitored by international observers. And, it urges Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People's Party to end all harassment and intimidation of Cambodia's opposition, to drop all politically-motivated charges against opposition lawmakers, to allow them to return to Cambodia and freely participate in the political process, and to foster an environment where democracy can thrive and flourish.
In addition, the resolution details numerous recent civil and human rights violations committed by the Cambodian government against its people.The resolution is cosponsored by 17 House members, including House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) Chairman Ed Royce (CA-39), HFAC Ranking Member Eliott Engel (NY-16), Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-03), and Congressman Steve Chabot (OH-01), who along with Congressman Lowenthal, is a founding member and co-chair of the Congressional Cambodian Caucus.