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Cambodia slams EU Parliament censure, call for sanctions

EU resolution demands freedom for Cambodia’s political prisoners while urging free and fair elections
Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session during a plenary session in Strasbourg, eastern France, on March 14

Members of the European Parliament take part in a voting session during a plenary session in Strasbourg, eastern France, on March 14. (Photo:AFP)

Published: March 20, 2023 03:50 AM GMT
Updated: March 20, 2023 04:08 AM GMT

Cambodia has lashed out at the European Union (EU) claiming its sovereign rights had been violated by a resolution demanding all political prisoners be freed and that the shuttered independent news outlet, Voice of Democracy (VOD), be reinstated ahead of July elections.

The European Parliament adopted three resolutions on the respect for human rights in Iran, Tunisia and Cambodia on March 16, which passed with 496 votes in favor, 11 against and 36 abstentions.

“Parliament calls on the authorities in Cambodia to immediately and unconditionally release the opposition leader Kem Sokha as well as all opposition activists convicted or held in custody on politically motivated charges,” it said.

Kem Sokha, the former president of the outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was found guilty of treason and attempting to mount a color revolution on March 3 and sentenced to 27 years under house arrest and banned from politics for life.

“The largest opposition party, CNRP, must be reinstated immediately to be able to participate in the 2023 elections,” the resolution said while urging free and fair elections with all political parties able to contest under a more inclusive National Election Committee.

Kem Sokha’s sentencing followed the closure of VOD by Prime Minister Hun Sen last month for upsetting his son, Hun Manet, over a disputed quote concerning an aid package for Turkey.

The resolution also calls for VOD, one of Cambodia’s last independent media outlets that was closed in February, to be reinstated immediately.

“It urges the [UN Human Rights] Council to adopt targeted sanctions, under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime, against officials, to hold accountable all persons responsible for serious human rights violations and the dissolution and subsequent repression of the Cambodian opposition,” it said.

However, the Cambodian Foreign Ministry said it was disappointed with the resolution which it said reflected the European Parliament’s disrespect for Cambodian independence and sovereignty.

“We reject the said resolution, which in essence is a flagrant violation of the sovereign right of a member state of the United Nations,” it said in a statement. “Crime is a crime, and it cannot be justified for other aspirations.”

Shortly after the EU resolution passed, the licenses of three more Cambodian media outlets were revoked by the Ministry of Information due to “aggression and serious misconduct in journalism,” pro-government media reported.

According to a translation by the Khmer Times, the Rasmei Kampong Cham website, the Association of Cambodia-ASEAN Journalists (CSJA) and Chea Saren, owner of a local newspaper and publishing business have been told to close.

“The ministry states that they were shuttered due to ‘serious misconduct in journalism and refusing to follow the Ministry of Education…, which is contrary to the business contract of the person’s filed with the Ministry of Information,” the report said.

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