China backs Cambodia over crackdown on opposition
PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/ANN Desk) – After opposition dissolved, Hun Sen’s govt vows to stamp out any lingering dissent
Cambodia has received support from China for its crackdown on political opposition, after the only real electoral rival to Hun Sen’s regime was disbanded last Thursday.
“China supports the Cambodian side’s efforts to protect political stability and achieve economic development, and believes the Cambodian government can lead the people to deal with domestic and foreign challenges, and will smoothly hold elections next year,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) was dissolved in a widely condemned court ruling for allegedly trying to topple the government. The ruling prompted the United States to cut election funding and threaten more punitive steps. The European Union has also threatened action.
In their presentations to the court, Interior Ministry lawyers named four groups and individuals as accomplices in their so-called “lotus revolution”, an accusation all the groups denied yesterday.
The Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) was accused of colluding with the US to overthrow the government, the same charges aimed at its founder, Kem Sokha, who would later go on to lead the CNRP, and who is currently in pretrial detention on charges of “treason”.
Election watchdog Comfrel, meanwhile, was accused of colluding with the opposition to undermine the 2013 elections. Independent media advocate Pa Nguon Teang was accused of initiating the so-called “Black Monday” protests, which called for the release of jailed rights workers.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said the groups and individuals are being “monitored” to see whether they have abandoned their alleged revolutionary tendencies.
“If the individual does not give up the stance or plan, we will take action,” he said. Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, said the threats are part of a broader government “plan” to crackdown on dissent.
“By naming certain groups in submissions to the Supreme Court, it looks like the lawyers are tipping the government’s hand on who is next for rights violating actions by the authorities,” he added, calling for diplomats to act to protect the individuals and groups named.
Naly Pilorge, of the rights group Licadho, said it was “alarming” that “the normal work of CSOs relating to elections, media and human rights would now be deemed as crimes”.
China has declined to criticise the government of Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge commander who is one of Beijing’s most important allies in Southeast Asia after more than three decades in power.