– having regard to its previous resolutions on Cambodia,
– having regard to Rules 144(5) and 132(4) of its Rules of Procedure,
A. whereas on 3 March 2023, following a trial deemed by UN experts to have ‘failed to meet the standard of either Cambodian or international human rights law’, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Kem Sokha to 27 years in jail, which he is temporarily allowed to serve under house arrest, and indefinitely suspended his political rights to vote and to stand for election;
B. whereas Kem Sokha the former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president was arrested in 2017 over accusations of conspiracy to overthrow Prime Minister Hun Sen and held in arbitrary pre-trial detention until his conditional release into house arrest on 10 September 2018;
C. whereas since the Supreme Court of Cambodia dissolved the largest opposition party, the CNRP, the Cambodian Government has been cracking down on members of the political opposition by jailing and fining them, and forcing them into exile;
D. whereas Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power almost without interruption for 38 years and the ruling party holds absolute power over the state and legislative bodies;
E. whereas the government crackdown on independent media, civil society organisations and political opposition that began in 2017 has continued, including through sham mass trials, the persecution of activists such as Seng Theary and the leadership and members of the opposition Candlelight Party, the restriction of liberties and the closure on 13 February 2023 of VOD, one of Cambodia’s last independent media outlets;
1. Calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Kem Sokha and all opposition officials and activists convicted or detained on politically motivated charges;
2. Urges the Cambodian authorities to ensure free and fair elections in July 2023, allowing all political parties to carry out equal, free and transparent electoral campaigns under a more inclusive and transparent national election committee; calls for the immediate reinstatement of the CNRP for participation in the 2023 elections;
3. Calls on the authorities to put an end to all forms of harassment, intimidation and politically motivated criminal charges against members of the opposition, trade unionists, human right defenders (HRDs), civil society and media actors and for the immediate reinstatement of VOD;
4. Calls for the coordinated use of available political avenues including the further suspension of Cambodia’s ‘Everything But Arms’ status if the 2023 elections deviate from international standards or violations of human rights continue;
5. Urges the Commission to define human rights benchmarks for its ongoing enhanced engagement with the Cambodian authorities, and to provide assistance to Cambodia’s civil society and HRDs;
6. Urges the Council to adopt targeted sanctions, under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, to hold accountable all persons responsible for serious human rights violations and the dissolution and subsequent repression of the Cambodian opposition;
7. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the VP/HR, the ASEAN Secretary-General and the Government, Prime Minister and National Assembly of Cambodia.
Nhim Sarom (Candlelight Party’s Facebook page)🔊 Listen to this
Regarding “Candlelight Commune Chief-Elect Arrested for 2002 Robbery Case,” it is a joke for the Kampong Thom Provincial Court to have handcuffed Nhim Sarom, Candlelight Party commune chief-elect of Chamna Loeu commune. The use of a court warrant dated 10 years ago is the mark of a Kangaroo Court that ignores due process and pursues a predetermined conclusion, or of double standards where rules and laws are unfairly applied in different ways to different people. Legally speaking, the court in Cambodia has been notoriously accumulating distrust among Cambodian citizens. Politically speaking, the election is just a theater as the voice of the voters has never been respected.
This arrest is another testament to the incapability of the court and law enforcement in Cambodia. With prejudice and political partisanship, opposition dissidents are victimized, and they are found to be the wrongdoers in most legal and political cases. Can you imagine a society where good people are forced to be bad, and bad people are transformed to be good?
President, Committee for Election Right of Overseas Cambodians
Chao Ratanak, Candlelight Party’s commune chief candidate in Poipet commune, stands next to her father, Chao Veasna, a former opposition councilor in the commune, outside her house on May 14, 2022. (Matt Surrusco/VOD)🔊 Listen to this
Reading the article “Election Committee Rejects Candlelight Complaint Due to Lack of Specifics” recalls to mind how for Cambodian voters back in the 1998 national election — after the coup d’etat in 1997 — the legacy of the professional election institution built by the UNTAC was demolished and a new National Election Committee rebuilt. And in 2017, when the Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved, the legacy of an NEC created by the spirit of “culture of dialogue” was also demolished.
The response of the local election committee in the latest case is not a surprise, as the professionalism of neutrality has not been embedded in their workmanship at all. If this local election committee was well-trained, comprehensive, professional, and fearless to perform their duty without reprisal, they would try to accommodate complaints filed by Chao Ratanak without creating any further obstruction. But their performance shows not only an incapability for professional conduct but also bias toward the ruling party without doubt.
Observing the leadership structure of the current NEC, regardless of the instalment of party activists, the bureaucratic hierarchy from the national level to provincial level and to local agents is not necessary at all, and this structure creates more avenues to favor the ruling party than to serve the interests of voters. The judicial system being used as a political tool for the ruling party also disincentivizes professional conduct for the NEC and its staff.
Since Cambodia has conducted elections according to the spirit of Paris Peace Agreements, only two elections have been regarded as credible and professional, i.e. 1993 and 2017. Hence, the political maturity of the Cambodian people and their dynamic activism have paved concrete hope for the betterment in the near future.
Sophoan Seng President, Committee for Election Right of Overseas Cambodians
Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks to Cambodian expatriates in Washington D.C. on May 11. (Hun Sen’s Facebook Page)
Regarding the news article by VOD, “Hun Sen Rules Out Postal Voting for Cambodia During His US Tour”, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s comments twist the reality of overseas voting for the public, as there are plenty of other overseas voting methods that the Committee for Election Right of Overseas Cambodians (CEROC) has advocated for.
We should learn from neighboring countries — Thailand, Philippines and Myanmar alike allow overseas voters to cast ballots in domestic elections, and they do not utilize a postal voting mechanism at all. They set up booths in overseas communities where eligible voters can cast ballots. Embassies have played vital roles to accommodate such facilities in foreign countries, regardless of whether the voters are migrant workers, students, soldiers on mission, government officials, or dual citizens.