Can Cambodia’s opposition keep pressure on PM Hun Sen?

Opposition leader Kem Sokha has been released from house arrest but the crackdown on dissent continues.

Inside Story11 Nov 2019 20:17 GMT CambodiaAsia Pacific

Cambodia‘s Prime Minister Hun Sen has silenced nearly all voices of dissent in recent years.

His government shut down independent media and dissolved the main opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

CNRP leader Kem Sokha was freed after a year of house arrest, but he still faces severe restrictions and is banned from leaving the country.

His colleagues, including party co-founder Sam Rainsy, are facing challenges of their own as they try to return to Cambodia from exile.

This is happening as the government faces international condemnation for undermining democracy and human rights.

Can they maintain the pressure despite a government crackdown?

Presenter: Nastasya Tay

Guests:

Sam Rainsy – acting president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party

Graham Ong-Webb – research fellow at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies

Benjamin Zawacki – independent Southeast Asia analyst and author

Source: Al Jazeera News

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Kem Sokha has remained under arrest with new court conditions in a politically motivated charge

After Kem Sokha was silenced through jail, Sam Rainsy has spoken loud abroad, and the current in-flooded attention of the world is truly a sign to the survival of their party. Now, it is Kem Sokha’s turn to add more scores to what Sam Rainsy has achieved. Kem Sokha could be active and effective domestically and Sam Rainsy is internationally. At the moment, if either Kem Sokha or Sam Rainsy don’t speak out loud, the future of these dual shall be disappeared from Cambodia arena.

Furthering a note by Prof. Ear Sophal, I would like to through in some pieces of thought into this matter.

  • According to this editorial article by KT, it is evidently to score the shows the court’s decision is unprofessional and politically motivated. Court in Cambodia, under HS leadership and his colleagues, has already been well-known among Cambodians and abroad on its unprofessionalism, biases and directly supervised by the powerful. This institution is in need of genuine reform especially changing those incumbent top leadership as priority.
  • The divide and conquer tactics as well as violence-based politics through current patronage system has realized many young people to walk away and seek alternative options to staying away and anchoring base to change it. This tactic is not rule-based leadership but personal cult that has led to widespread corruption and abusing of power. The nation has become second as first is personal power manifesting its triumph which can be exchanged by anything including the sovereignty of this nation.
  • Kem Sokha is like Sam Rainsy, have realized that this time “silence is power” could not be applied. They both have realized that if they don’t speak loud, no body can hear their voice. Their silence during the court’s procedure to dissolve CNRP is an evidence showing that although you have manpower hundred millions under you elbow, you could not survive from a bullying by just keep silence while other side is continuing to bully you. After Kem Sokha was silenced through jail, Sam Rainsy has spoken loud abroad, and the current in-flooded attention of the world is truly a sign to the survival of their party. Now, it is Kem Sokha’s turn to add more scores to what Sam Rainsy has achieved. Kem Sokha could be active and effective domestically and Sam Rainsy is internationally. At the moment, if either Kem Sokha or Sam Rainsy don’t speak out loud, the future of these dual shall be disappeared from Cambodia arena.

Now, it is wrong time, wrong space, and wrong situation: SRP & SRP has already melt into CRNP. And Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy have not been fighting to take one seat but to supplement each other of that one seat into reality. HS is facing backfire and deadlock in his cocking fighting or cheeseboard tactic. More he is playing such game more losing of his own popular support and legitimacy. From lesson learnt: Funcipec and so on, all democrats have learnt tremendously on how to bond, to strive and to celebrate their victory. Now, Rainsy is welcome and empowered by Answer’s Government, next, both CNRP and Pakatan Harapan shall celebrate together!

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Why a 65-year-old grandmother is freely flying to probable imprisonment in Cambodia

“My daughters would rather I take a break from politics. They are worried about me,” Sochua admitted when we had lunch together before she left on her way home. “But they’ve decided to support me as a woman defending democracy and human rights. And yes, I’ll miss the grandchildren.”

កូនរបស់ខ្ញុំថាខ្ញុំគួរតែឈប់សម្រាកពីនយោបាយ។ ពួកគេបារម្មណ៍អំពីខ្ញុំ ៉ អ្នកស្រីមួរ សុខហួរទទួលស្គាល់ការពិតនៅពេលពួកយើងទទួលទានអាហារត្រង់ជាមួយគ្នា។ ប៉ុន្តែពួកគេបានសម្រេចចិត្តគាំទ្រខ្ញុំក្នុងនាមជាស្ត្រីការពារលទ្ធិប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនិងសិទ្ធិមនុស្ស។ ហើយពិតណាស់ ខ្ញុំនឹកដល់ចៅៗខ្ញុំណាស់។

Why a 65-year-old grandmother is freely flying to probable imprisonment in Cambodia

Mu Sochua, vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, speaks during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Wednesday. (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)
Mu Sochua, vice president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, speaks during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Wednesday. (Achmad Ibrahim/AP)

By Elizabeth Becker November 6, 2019 at 12:02 p.m. PST, Washington Post

Elizabeth Becker is a former Post war correspondent in Cambodia and author of “When the War was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution.”

In a few days, a 65-year-old grandmother will freely board a plane on a journey to probable imprisonment in a foul Cambodian jail. Mu Sochua, one of Cambodia’s most influential politicians, is the vice president of the outlawed opposition party trying to return democracy to Cambodia. She carries a U.S. passport but is under no illusion that this will protect her from the ire of Hun Sen, the strongman of Cambodia.

He has marked her as one of the country’s most dangerous traitors and has ordered the Cambodian army and police to use force to stop her and her colleagues from entering the country by land, sea or air. But Sochua and her peers thoughtfully announced their date of return in advance: Nov. 9, Cambodian Independence Day.AD

“This is the moment to go back,” Sochua told me. “Inside Cambodia, fear is everywhere. I can’t accept that Hun Sen continues as a cruel dictator.”

Sochua is a reminder of the unbearable personal sacrifices required to protect and promote democracy in this age of brutal tyrants, especially for women. We met decades ago when she opened the first nongovernmental organization for women’s rights in peacetime Cambodia, tackling domestic violence, human trafficking and gender equality under the law. Over the years, we shared our enjoyment of gossip, mutual admiration of Cambodian architecture and her hopes to pull the country closer to the ideals she absorbed in the United States.

Sochua was a practical idealist in a country traumatized by the Khmer Rouge genocide. After her parents sent all four children overseas to study when the Vietnam War spread into Cambodia in 1970, Sochua ended up in the Bay Area, graduating from San Francisco State and earning a master’s degree in social work from the University of California at Berkeley. She was on the cusp of the successful immigrant path — bright career, professional security and family.AD

Instead, she spent the next five years on the Thai border helping Cambodian refugees, honoring her parents who had disappeared under the Khmer Rouge. At the border camps, she met her husband, Scott Leiper, a Khmer-speaking American who was working to reunite children with their parents. They moved to the broken mess that was Cambodia and, with a family of three daughters, threw themselves into the country’s recovery: Leiper with the United Nations, Sochua from NGOs to politics.

As a Cambodian woman, Sochua faced huge pushback in the male-dominated political arena. Her daughters noticed what she was going through — the rough behavior, betrayals and threats of violence. Despite the obstacles, she won a seat in parliament and then became the first woman to head the Ministry for Women, chalking up success with new laws and the addition of women throughout government.

But Hun Sen, a former Khmer Rouge officer, pushed out his co-prime minister to rule Cambodia on his own and add to the spectacular corruption that had made him, his family and cronies multimillionaires in a poor nation. Sochua left the government to join the opposition. The country was looking for change and, in 2017, her party — the Cambodia National Rescue Party — scored an unexpected victory in local elections. The CNRP appeared headed for an even better showing in the upcoming national elections.

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Cambodian Opposition Chief Readies Return From Exile

“This may be the last time you see me alive or as a free man,” he said. “Because in a few days I may be dead, I may be put in jail, so while I am a free man I want to express my conviction that democracy will prevail.”

លោកសម-រង្ស៊ីមានប្រសាសន៍ថា”នេះអាចជាពេលចុងក្រោយដែលអ្នកនៅឃើញខ្ញុំនៅមានជីវិតឬជាមនុស្សមានសេរីភាព”។ ពីព្រោះនៅតែប៉ុន្មានថ្ងៃខាងមុខនេះ ខ្ញុំអាចនឹងស្លាប់ ខ្ញុំអាចនឹងគេចាប់ដាក់គុក ដូច្នេះក្នុងពេលដែលខ្ញុំនៅមានសេរីភាព ខ្ញុំចង់បញ្ជាក់ពីការប្តេជ្ញាចិត្តថាប្រជាធិបតេយ្យនឹងរីកស្គុសស្គាយ។

Cambodian Opposition Chief Readies Return From Exile

By The Associated Press

  • Nov. 5, 2019 Updated 7:30 am

BRUSSELS — Cambodia’s most prominent opposition politician says he’s ready to risk imprisonment or death by returning to his country from self-imposed exile to unseat the country’s longtime ruler.

Sam Rainsy, co-founder of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, told The Associated Press that he hopes his planned return on Saturday will trigger a nonviolent People’s Power-style mass movement to force Prime Minister Hun Sen from office.

“I expect to bring about a democratic change, meaning to put an end to the current regime, which is a brutal dictatorship,” he said in an interview Monday in Brussels, where he was seeking support from European Parliament lawmakers.

He said he plans to jet back to Asia from Brussels and prepare to cross into Cambodia from a neighboring country on Saturday, which is Cambodia’s Independence Day.

The plan is fraught with jeopardy. If he should succeed in entering his country, prison is a near certainty for him. According to the Justice Ministry, Sam Rainsy has convictions on six offenses — including the criminal libel charge that caused him to go into exile in 2015 to avoid serving a two-year prison sentence — and at least eight other cases are pending. He and several colleagues face charges of armed rebellion for their return plan, which could earn them prison terms of 15-30 years.

In 1997, Sam Rainsy survived an assassination attempt when grenades were tossed at a small rally he was leading in the center of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. At least 16 people were killed and scores were wounded.

“We have to take the risk. I have assessed those risks and they are worth taking, worth taking because the Cambodian people have been suffering for a long time, so we have to try to put an end to the sufferings,” he said.

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