Congressmen Alan Lowenthal and Steve Chabot Joint Statement On Formal Exile of Sam Rainsy By Cambodian Government

October 27, 2016
Press Release

Congressmen Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) and Steve Chabot (OH-01) today issued the following joint bipartisan statement on the formal exile of Mr. Sam Rainsy by the Cambodian government:

As co-chairs of the Congressional Cambodia Caucus, we are deeply troubled by reports that the government of Cambodia has officially banned opposition leader Sam Rainsy from entering the country.

We disagree with this action in the strongest possible terms. The right of the Cambodian people to freely and fairly choose their leaders should not be infringed upon by the current government.
In addition to the bar on Mr. Rainsy returning to Cambodia, the government has forced deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha to be committed to virtual house arrest for the last five months.

The simple fact is that free and fair elections are impossible when the leadership of Cambodia's sole major opposition party is effectively blocked for fear of personal safety or incarceration.

This is yet another incident in a long line of actions by the Cambodian government that have raised concerns among the international community.

Last month, we urged Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government to take steps to end the harassment and persecution of political opponents. In light of these troubling developments, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.Res.728, a bipartisan resolution 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.

Since the 2013 Cambodian general election, 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.

The people of Cambodia deserve to have their voices fairly heard. The upcoming elections in 2017 and 2018 can only be considered legitimate if they are held in an environment that truly respects open political debate and dissent.  We call on the Cambodian government to immediately drop all politically-motivated charges against opposition leaders and allow them to return to Cambodia.