– 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.
This time, I am reminded of an article I wrote about “The Repute of Angkor Wat” in 2002. Once, the Siamese army tried to relocate the Ta Phrom Temple to rebuild in Thailand under the order of King of Ayuthya, those armies were beheaded and let them back a few to report to the King that all Khmer ruins were not abandoned as perceived. Few survival armies mentioned the swift and brave Angkor warriors whose villagers living in the nearby areas, appeared from the forest with horses and swords killed the Siamese armies in a sudden.
Bad rumours or news on Angkor Wat resulted in many catastrophes such as the burning of Thai embassy in 2004. When a Phnom Penh newspaper falsely reported that a popular Thai actress claimed that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand, Cambodians rioted in the capital, destroying the Thai Embassy and dozens of Thai-owned businesses (Los Angeles Time).
Prof. Dr. Ang Chulean, who were first President of Apsara Authority, and later were believed left the post because of his critical opinion against the building of toilets surrounding Angkor ruins complex, articulated the important villages and people living surrounding the complex. Those people and villages must not be relocated and demolished. In his interview with Thmey Thmey local online newspaper, he called those people and villages the “life heritage” reflecting the contrast to of those stone-castle heritage of Angkor Wat and nearby ruins.
Actually, the UNESCO’s Articles on Angkor Protection under World Heritage Scheme in the initial legal adoption chaired by King Norodom Sihanouk, descripted the important of having villagers settled around the ruins decades or centuries ago.
With the repeating escalating speech to relocating villagers surrounding Angkor Wat and nearby ruins by Prime Minister Hun Sen, over 3000 people rallied to Banteay Srey commune headquarter in October 6-7-8-9, to protest against these relocating attempts. Villagers whom feared of reprisal and traumatized by egregious political intimidations, conducted both anonymous protests through social media and come out to the streets with face masked on, demanding the authority not to relocate them by allowing them to live peacefully in their inheriting property such as homes and lands; they reject any cost of compensation to relocate them; they reject negotiation with the authority; they are desiring only to live peacefully in their inheriting lands and homes passed to them many generations; they are proud of their ancestors leaving them current plot of land, etc.
According to Hun Sen, Ron Ta Ek new development is a new plot of land for those villagers to relocate to. Looking closely, the villagers most of them are new settlers to the ruins vicinity, accepted the small amount of compensation and monthly social service money (named poor certificate card), to live in Ron Ta Ek two years ago, hence the area itself is not visibly developed and most of the villagers are not living there, major homes are abandoned. They have come back to live where they can afford income and employment, or migrated to work in Thailand.
In contrast, like Sihanouk Ville or other special economic zone (SMDs) entire Cambodia, Cambodian tycoons and Chinese companies have worked with powerful Cambodian shareholders in the secrete and bribery deals to relocate villagers in the name of development. For Siem Reap, according to this news outlet, NagaCorp which is the notorious beneficiaries of Naga World Casino, is going to invest over 350 millions dollars covering lands of 75 hectare in the 500m distance surrounding Angkor Wat and ruins complex.
Abdicate the policy of development for the riches, or use development schemes as excuse to lure Cambodian citizens to be prey and dismantle their livelihood existence as well as family harmony.
Be confident on the UNESCO’s policy as well as United Nations’; all developments are placing human rights and human dignity first, not profit or partisan first at all.
Cambodian citizens must stand firm, from lessons learnt entire Cambodia, no body can help us beside ourselves. All Siem Reapers must stand up against all injustice and relocation policy, not only today, this month, but keep close pre-alert forever.
Use community media (social media, cell phones, youtube, twitter, etc.) effectively to protect your own interests.
Article by Sophoan Seng, October 15, 2022, @copyrights
We, the Cambodian citizens living in Canada and United States of America, propose to the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia to adopt the law allowing all Cambodians overseas to exercise rights to vote in each country which they are living. This is in conformity with the Chapter 33 of the Constitution of Royal Kingdom of Cambodia stating that “Cambodian people living overseas are aided by the State”.
Majority of overseas Cambodians continue to be concerned for the welfare of their homeland and have the determination to participate in the destiny of their motherland through the elections of their representatives in Cambodia.
We understand that the process of a free, fair, just and acceptable election to ensure stability, democracy, and genuine development requires the participation of all Cambodian citizens living inside or outside of Cambodia and for them to exercise their rights to vote without barriers and obstructions. The National Election Committee (NEC) must have true independence, transparency, and integrity including opening space for democracy by allowing the participation of all those with different political beliefs and with the release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and dropping all charges against all politicians in exile so that they can equally participate in the upcoming 2023 national election.
We want to see the upcoming 2023 election be conducted in a credible political environment that allows all citizens from all political beliefs to participate and be accepted by all parties and by the international community.
We want to see the upcoming election 2023 is full of credible political environment participated by all political beliefs and parties and could be accepted by all parties and international organizations.
Signatures representing Cambodians overseas living in Canada and the United States of America