Cambodia: Stop Political Harassment of the Opposition


JAKARTA – ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights urge the Cambodian government to stop targeting and attacking members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and immediately investigate the death in detention of a former CNRP official.

Since Sam Rainsy, the Acting Leader of the CNRP, announced his plans to return from exile to  Cambodia in 2019, the government has intensified a political crackdown. This has included harassment, unlawful arrests, physical attacks and even reports of torture and killings, while Prime Minister Hun Sen has used public speeches to announce his intentions to “destroy” the opposition.

“The widening harassment of the opposition in Cambodia must end immediately. Authorities continue to rely on a range of tactics – including arbitrary arrests and trumped-up criminal charges – to target those supporting the CNRP,” said Charles Santiago, APHR Board Chair and an MP in Malaysia.

“Cambodia has already become a de facto one-party state since last year’s election. The continued attacks on the opposition shows that the government has no interest in meaningful dialogue, but is only concerned with strengthening its own grip on power.”

In a recent egregious case, Tith Rorn, a former CNRP party agent, was detained by police officers without an arrest warrant on April 15 and was found dead a few days later in Kampong Cham prison. While police claim that he died in an epileptic seizure, Tith Rorn’s father says his son had no history of epilepsy, while highlighting that his dead body showed signs of physical abuse, including a broken neck. This raises questions about possible torture or other forms of ill-treatment in prison. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights calls for the Cambodian authorities to immediately launch an independent and impartial investigation into Tith Rorn’s death.

Tith Rorn’s death took place in the context of growing politically motivated attacks and harassment of opposition supporters. In March, for example, two leaders of the CNRP Women’s Movement in Phnom Penh were threatened and physically attacked. On 7 April, another government critic active on Facebook, Nol Pongthearith, was badly beaten and has since fled the country.

Authorities have also judicially harassed opponents. At least 19 CNRP officials were summoned to the Battambang provincial court for allegedly violating the Supreme Court from the November 2017 ruling that saw the party dissolved.

CNRP supporter Kong Mas has been held in pre-trial detention since January, when he was arrested and charged with “incitement” after posting on Facebook about the European Union’s rice tariffs on Cambodia.

More recently, in march, eight CNRP members who are currently in exile, including Mu Sochua, APHR Board Member and Vice-President of CNRP, have been issued with arrest warrants for conspiring to commit treason and incitement to commit a felony.

“Theses bogus criminal cases, combined with the aggressive rhetoric of Mr. Hun Sen and other senior members of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, are intended to spread fear,” said Charles Santiago.

“Cambodia must immediately drop all politically motivated charges against government critics, and instead hold accountable those responsible for attacks on opposition activists.”

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) was founded in June 2013 with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across Southeast Asia. Our founding members include many of the region's most progressive Members of Parliament (MPs), with a proven track record of human rights advocacy work.

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