Congressman Lowenthal Urges Cambodian Government To End Political Oppression

September 23, 2016
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal today, along with five of his Congressional colleagues, urged Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government to take steps to end the harassment and persecution of political opponents if the upcoming 2017 and 2018 elections in the Southeast Asian nation are to be considered free and fair.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Members of Congress express grave concerns over the deteriorating political situation in Cambodia.

"Over the past year, we have watched ongoing crackdowns on dissenting voices and politically-motivated prosecutions of opposition lawmakers, including Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha," Congressman Lowenthal said in the letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen. "Now, there are news reports that security forces in Cambodia, under your orders, are prepared to use any means necessary to crack down on opposition demonstrations."

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congressman Lowenthal's bi-partisan resolution, H.Res. 728, which calls for free and fair elections and reaffirms the commitment of the United States to promoting democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Cambodia. 

"We condemn all forms of political violence in Cambodia, and urge you and your government to end all harassment and intimidation of Cambodia's opposition and drop all politically motivated charges against opposition lawmakers," Congressman Lowenthal said in the letter. "As friends of Cambodia, we see limitless opportunity for the people of Cambodia if only they are allowed the chance to speak freely and openly petition their government."

Last year, the non-profit 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 credibility of the last general election, held in 2013, was criticized by numerous domestic and international organizations, and since then the political opposition to the current government has faced increasing restrictions that have also been levied against members of civil society, nongovernmental organizations, and the 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. Dr. Kem Ley, a noted political commentator and critic of the government, was assassinated in broad daylight in Phnom Penh earlier this year.

To read the full text of the letter, click here.