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Op-Ed: Phnom Penh Post
Analysis: Judge who will decide the fate of the CNRP is a trusted member of the CPP
The decision to preserve or to dissolve the country’s main opposition party will fall on Thursday to a judge listed as a member of the ruling CPP’s most exclusive committee, and whose close ties to Prime Minister Hun Sen stretch back more than three decades.
Supreme Court President Dith Munty, who turns 76 today, is a member of the Cambodian People’s Party’s powerful permanent committee and was part of a trusted circle of advisers to the premier as the country rebuilt itself after the Khmer Rouge was ousted.
On Thursday, the court will consider a Ministry of Interior complaint seeking the complete dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party – the country’s largest opposition party and the only legitimate electoral threat to the CPP. While the government’s accusations that the CNRP – and its leader, Kem Sokha – colluded with the US to foment “revolution” remain unproved, numerous ruling party officials, Hun Sen included, have insisted the party’s guilt is a foregone conclusion.
As presiding judge of the hearing, Munty will be directly involved in making the final call.
But in the 19 years since the Supreme Court has been under Munty’s leadership, analysts say, it has failed to establish its independence from Hun Sen and his CPP – controversially deciding, among other things, to uphold a politically tinged incitement conviction against former opposition leader Sam Rainsy in 2011, as well as a defamation conviction against senior opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua in 2010.
“You could count on one hand the number of times a high-profile judicial decision has gone against the wishes of the country’s political leaders, which says a lot,” said Chak Sopheap, the executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.
What’s more, she noted, it’s difficult to even criticise the court publicly thanks to legal provisions that make it a criminal offence to criticise a judicial decision with the aim of endangering “public order” or “an institution of the Kingdom of Cambodia”.
Sotheara Yoeurng, legal adviser at election watchdog Comfrel, said the Supreme Court’s reputation among the public and international community is particularly fraught when it comes to political cases.
“You can claim yourself to be neutral, but if the public knows you are a member of the ruling party, the public will not trust you,” Yoeurng said.
A former cadre of the Kampuchean United Front for National Salvation, which helped overthrow Pol Pot with the help of the Vietnamese in 1979, Munty rose to prominence as deputy minister of foreign affairs under Hun Sen in the early 1980s, according to Sebastian Strangio, author of Hun Sen’s Cambodia.
In 1991, Munty was one of five Cambodian leaders who travelled to France in the premier’s entourage for the signing of the Paris Peace Accords with rival faction leaders Prince Norodom Sihanouk and Khieu Samphan.
He was appointed president of the Supreme Court in 1998 and has held the position since, in spite of laws that require judges to retire at age 60.
Despite keeping a low profile compared to other officials close to Hun Sen, Munty is listed as the number 15 official on the party’s elite permanent committee and a member of the central and standing committees on the CPP’s website.
His dual role as a party leader and an ostensibly independent judge “clearly creates a conflict of interest” for himself and the Supreme Court as a whole, said Kingsley Abbott, Southeast Asia legal adviser with the International Commission of Jurists.
“At an absolute minimum, the president should recuse himself from any role in relation to the case, as should any other judge if they have a similar position within the CPP,” Abbott said.
Indeed, Munty is not alone on the Supreme Court in his ties to the ruling party.
សារពត៌មានFreshnews ដែលគេស្គាល់ថាជាបបូរមាត់របស់គណបក្សប្រជាជនកម្ពុជាកំពុងដឹកនាំរដ្ឋាភិបាល បានបញ្ចេញឈ្មោះសមាជិកគណៈកម្មាធិការអចិន្ត្រៃយ៍និងសមាជិកគណៈកម្មាធិការនាយក១១៧នាក់របស់គណបក្សសង្គ្រោះជាតិ គឺជារំលោភសិទ្ធិបុគ្គលនិងការគំរាមកំហែងធ្ងន់ធ្ងរ។ ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋកម្ពុជាទាំង១៥លាននាក់អភ័ព្វជាទីបំផុតដែលមានរដ្ឋាភិបាលអសមត្ថភាពក្នុងកិច្ចការពារសិទ្ធិឯកជននិងសុវត្ថិភាពផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋម្នាក់ៗ។
រាប់ចាប់តាំងពីក្រុមសំងាត់ដែលអាចថតសំលេងសន្ទនាផ្ទាល់ខ្លួនរបស់ប្រជាពលរដ្ឋគ្រប់រូប រហូតដល់អាចទំលាយពត៌មានសំងាត់នូវជនដែលត្រូវគេប្តឹងទៅតុលាការជាសាធារណៈដូច្នេះ គឺជាការរំលោភទៅលើរដ្ឋធម្មនុញ្ញមាត្រា៣៨ ដែលនិយាយអំពីជីវិតផ្ទាល់ខ្លួន សេចក្តីថ្លៃថ្នូផ្ទាល់ខ្លួន និងការចាត់ទុកថាគ្មានទោសនៅពេលណាដែលតុលាការមិនបានកាត់ទោស ជាដើម។
WASHINGTON (AP) — Cambodia’s leader is destroying a political opposition movement that threatens his three-decade grip on power and he’s accusing America of plotting his downfall. An influential opposition figure is in Washington is wondering if she’ll get any help at all.
Prime Minister Hun Sen talks about nefarious U.S. designs to unseat him, but the United States rejects that claim as baseless. Experts say his attacks are driven by a fear of losing elections next year.
Opposition leader Kem Sokha is imprisoned and his party seems likely to be dissolved this week by Cambodia’s highest court. His daughter, a spokeswoman for the Cambodia National Rescue Party, is urging President Donald Trump’s administration to act quickly and try to salvage democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
“Hun Sen thinks the world is not paying attention and that nobody is prepared to do anything about it,” said Monovithya Kem, who wants the United States to impose sanctions on Cambodian officials complicit in the crackdown.
Monovithya said about 20 lawmakers, out of the party’s 55 in the 123-member National Assembly, have fled Cambodia since Kem Sokha was arrested Sept. 3 and charged with treason, which carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Monovithya and her sister also fled, fearing arrest. The government accuses them of conspiring with the CIA.
It’s not unusual for Cambodian politicians to demonize the U.S. There’s fertile history to draw on.
U.S. secret bombing during the Vietnam War is often blamed for the rise of the Khmer Rouge, whose late 1970s genocidal rule killed one-quarter of the Cambodian population. After a Vietnamese invasion toppled the Khmer Rouge, the U.S. voted for a coalition including the former rulers to retain Cambodia’s U.N. seat instead of giving it to the Vietnam-backed government.
Since Cambodia emerged from civil war in the 1990s, however, the U.S. has been a more benign presence. Since 1991, it has provided $1.8 billion in aid for development and democracy promotion and $60 million in military assistance, U.S. government data show. Hun Sen’s eldest son was even educated at West Point.
But in recent years, the Cambodian leader’s relationship with Washington has become increasingly acrimonious. In that time, Cambodia’s reliance on nearby China, which avoids criticizing others’ human rights records, has intensified.
“U.S. influence in Cambodia is at an all-time low,” said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for Human Rights Watch in Washington.
He said the U.S. retains some power and leverage, particularly through voting rights at the World Bank and Asian Development Bank that provide aid for the impoverished country. America also is a big market for Cambodian textiles. Still, U.S. officials aren’t sure they can change Hun Sen’s calculus.
“Authoritarians don’t give up power easily,” Sifton said. “He still has China. He still has Vietnam. He still has ASEAN members who will stand beside him.” There are 10 members in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose leaders Trump was to meet at a summit in the Philippines.
Through 32 years in power, Hun Sen has mastered how to sideline political opponents. In 1997, he ousted a co-prime minister in a bloody coup. In recent years, he’s used Cambodia’s pliant judicial system.
Recent Paradise Papers leak is another effort to freeze dirty money laundering by corrupt people around the world. The Panama papers were primary source of worldwide campaign to freeze and stop all those money laundering and this Paradise Papers are hoped to aide more effective steps to pro-poor advocate by the groups of Investigator Journalists.
Cambodia has been seen over 300 individuals including 25 businessmen found who have used this channel to launder their dirty money in Cambodia. As noted, starting from the top leader (PM) to many of his cohorts and other patronage elites/links, are believed to vastly launder money in foreign networks especially they are found on both Panama Papers and Paradise Papers. And the world is organizing a “Black List” for those corrupted.
According to the Guardian news outlet, there are main reactions following:
Main reaction so far
Here’s a round of the key reactions so far to the first revelations in Paradise Papers:
- US Senator Bernie Sanders has has attacked the billionaires and corporations exposed by the Paradise Papers. He said they showed how they “get richer by hiding their wealth and profits and avoid paying their fair share of taxes”.
- Theresa May has refused to commit to a public register of the ownership of offshore companies and trusts. Responding to a question from the Guardian about the revelations, May said progress had already been made. She added: “We want people to pay the tax that’s due.”
- Mel Stride, the financial secretary to the Treasury, said there were many “legitimate reasons” for using offshore trusts. After being asked an urgent question by Labour on the Paradise Papers he accused the opposition of creating an inaccurate picture of all people using such trusts as being “eye-wateringly rich” or tax dodgers.
- The European Commission has called for swift action on tax evasion including a blacklist on tax havens. Pierre Moscovici, the European commissioner responsible for tax, said he was outraged but not surprised by the revelations.
- Green MEP Eva Joly, the deputy president of a European parliamentary inquiry on the Panama Papers, has demanded the UK be denied access to the European single market as part of the Brexit negotiations until it tackles tax havens. She said: “The EU must be firm in the Brexit negotiations: no access to the European single market for the UK if it continues to act as a tax haven on our doorstep.”
- Donald Trump’s commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, has denied misleading Congress, after the papers exposed details of his interests in a company doing business with a Russian firm controlled by members of Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. He claimed the papers revealed nothing improper.
- Jeremy Corbyn has said the Queen’s tax affairs should be subject to the public inquiry his party has called for into tax avoidance. His office was earlier forced to clarify a statement from the Labour leader after he appeared to suggest the Queen should apologise after the papers revealed that part of her wealth was invested offshore. His spokesman said: “Jeremy did not call for the Queen to apologise, but said anyone who puts money into a tax haven to avoid paying tax should.”
- Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, has called on the Queen to be honest with the public over her financial affairs.Margaret Hodge, former chair of the public accounts committee, said the Queen’s advisors had sullied the reputation of the monarchy.
- More than 700 prominent Indians have appeared in the Paradise Papers including several members of the main opposition Congress and ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Jayanta Sinha, India’s minister of state for aviation, is the highest ranking politician to appear. He denied the activity disclosed had been conducted for personal gain.
If you are a global citizen, or at least act locally, you could join with avaaz.org to sign petition (click link) to End-Tax-Havens now.
After a single party of government-led party CPP decisively amended the latest laws on political party, Hun Sen has already gained his “upper hand” to fit his “game changer” of win-win strategy to defeat his contender (CNRP) before the elections arrived. Hun Sen has conducted whatsoever he could to gain upper hand: to manipulate the durable national institutions into his personalized institutions, to uphold his patronage networks by monopolizing national wealth, and to tame Cambodian people by using the politics of fear and partial court. The national constitution has been wrongly trimmed to maximize his upper-hand approach at all cost.
Will CNRP be dissolved by the amended laws?
The amended laws are just the back-up plan to advocate party defectors. Primarily, Hun Sen frightened the voters by declaring war if his party lost in the election. But such action will place him at the worst risk. This time, the amended laws with the lawsuit filing at the supreme court to dissolve the CNRP will place him at the worst risk as well if it is put into action. Then, the new dating of Senate election to February 25, 2018, has entertained his intuitive belief in dividing and weakening the CNRP.
Hun Sen is facing with the power of common sense
Hun Sen might be good at the actual battle field, but his latest tactic under the growing well-informed citizens of Cambodia and within the democratic ballots field, he has already succumbed to self-defeat by distancing himself from “people’s common sense”. Those tactics against the people’s common senses are following: working “to cut head to fit hat” in applying the laws of the empire, manipulating the garment workers, dumping the voters by welcoming or advocating defecting representations (law-maker and Sangkat/commune council) to his party, violating the international treaties, and throat-cutting approach towards Cambodia’s growing economy by confronting with the EU and America.
Hun Sen is at high risk
Different from coup-detat in 1997, Hun Sen has run out effective means to attract international community to believe in his “game changer” supremacy. This time, CNRP and their leaders will not continue to commit self-suicidal by accepting any condition to become an alibi, or a power etiquette for the power holder, or bringing national fate into so-called national reconciliation. CNRP and their leaders didn’t shed a fire, thus those who shed fire must be accountable. If Kem Sokha is not released, and the CNRP will be dissolved on November 12, 2017 accordingly, those CNRP law-makers and Sangkat/commune councils are still there because they are elected by the people, and the CNRP and their supporters have more leverage to appeal to the UNs, the signatory countries of the Paris Peace Agreement, and the international community, to step in so that Senate election in February 25, 2018 and the national election in July 29, 2018, are meaningful. More than this, when CNRP is dissolved, there will be no government. No other country in this world dare to recognize such “illegitimate” group of power brokers. As said, the international community will encourage the King to play his role to declare the dissolution of the national assembly paving way to conduct an election for a new “legitimate” government.
The concerted efforts
The supporters of CPP have likely lost sight to uphold the principles while a “game changer” has already achieved his “upper hand” vision. But those supporters are remained intact to challenge a “game changer” to exercise such game easily. The 55 law-makers of CNRP must work in team with achievable plans to outreach to all democratic countries, the UNs, and the international community both domestic and abroad. The 5007 Sangkat/commune councils are active to daily engage with neighbours and those in need at the grassroots levels. The CNRP must uphold “consensus” work procedures of decision-making as supremacy within the party without granting power to any individual in decision-making so that they will face with political of fears and threat. The mandated November 9, 2017, by the America will be effectively taken action. The EU’s economy sanctions announced on Tuesday, October 31, 2017, has been clear enough. Many private talks and measures by the concerned countries have been already put in place. China’s advisers of central communist party’s Politburo already wrote on its media outlet in warning the risky move of Hun Sen if he dare to dissolve the CNRP.
EU MPs threaten Cambodia aid and trade over crackdown
PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – A European Parliament delegation warned on Tuesday that Cambodia could face EU action over aid and vital trade preferences if the human rights situation worsened further.
The delegation’s statement was the strongest threat of action from representatives of any Western donors since the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha in September and steps by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government to dissolve his Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Delegation of the European Parliament called for the release of Kem Sokha and an end to the process of dissolving his party.
“The government of Cambodia should be aware that the European Parliament is a co-legislator for budgetary and trade issues,” said the delegation’s chairman, Werner Langen, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats party.
“A serious deterioration of the human rights situation might have implications for development assistance programs and trade preferences,” he said after a two-day visit.
Huy Vannak, undersecretary of state at Cambodia’s Interior Ministry, said the European Parliament should keep trade and politics separate.
“Some members of the European Parliament should distinguish between political agenda and trade for the interests of the people. We need to create many choices rather than make the interests of the people a hostage of a political agenda,” Huy Vannak told Reuters.
“Without economic prosperity, democracy will just be an illusion,” he said.
European Union countries accounted for around 40 percent of Cambodia’s exports in 2016. Its exports, mostly of clothing, get fully duty free access under a scheme to help the world’s poorest countries.
Western diplomats say in private it would be difficult to secure EU agreement for limiting trade preferences because of the harm it could do to some 700,000 low-wage garment workers employed in Cambodian factories.
The European Union and its member states also gave Cambodia nearly $170 million in development aid last year, according to Cambodian government figures.