The Liberal International leadership has warned of the perilous position democracy in Cambodia now faces, following the arrest of Kem Sokha – the president of Cambodia’s pro-democracy opposition, Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP – LI full member).
On Sunday 3rd September, Mr Kem was arrested on trumped-up charges of treason prompting rapid protests from the LI leadership and the wider international community. The arrest comes after the CNRP saw great electoral success at the commune level in June, amid a crackdown on independent media in Cambodia in September, and ahead of a general election in 2018 that has the potential for the CNRP to end the 30-year rule of prime minister Hun Sen.
Astrid Thors, a vice-president on the LI bureau said: “LI demands immediate and resolute action by the international community with regards to the aggravating conditions in Cambodia.
“The signatory countries of the Paris Peace Accords have a particular responsibility to engage in reversing the dangerous slide of Cambodia towards outright authoritarianism. The EU must initiate steps for the immediate suspension of budgetary support for the regime given that the mutually agreed rules have been breached by the authorities in Phnom Penh.
Hans van Baalen MEP, LI President of Honour and the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats in Europe Party (ALDE Party) President called the arrest of the CNRP leader “unacceptable” and labelled charges brought against him as “absurd”.
In a written question to the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, Mr Van Baalen raised serious concerns that the actions of the Cambodian government will “contribute to further deterioration of the political climate for opposition forces in Cambodia in the run up to the 2018 elections”
Van Baalen asked,“which actions the HRVP [Ms Mogherini] will undertake to have Kem Sokha released and is the HRVP prepared to consider the suspension of EU financial support for Cambodia”.
Mr Sokha joins an unenviable list of liberal democrats in South East Asia – including Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia and Senator Leila de Lima in the Philippines – who have been imprisoned on highly contentious charges ahead of, or shortly after, a seismic national election.