Government Slams Asean MPs Over Human Rights Criticism

23 March 2017 | Hul Reaksmey | VOA Khmer

PHNOM PENH — The Cambodian government has called on Asean lawmakers to stay out of its internal affairs after a report by a group of Southeast Asian MPs labeled political developments in Cambodia the “death knell for democracy.”

In a statement on Monday, the group Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) published a report in which it said that court proceedings in Cambodia against some 15 MPs over the last three years had contributed to a “climate of fear”.

Responding to the report, the foreign ministry on Wednesday issued a statement urging Asean lawmakers to respect the body’s principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other Asean states.

It added that APHR was not a recognized institution of Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“More importantly, it is necessary to remind Mr. Charles Santiago, who is a parliamentarian of Malaysia and chairman of this group, to fully respect the ASEAN sacred principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN Member States,” the statement reads.

Chum Sounry, foreign affairs spokesman, could not be reached for comment.

The APHR report also pointed to the breakdown in dialogue between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, amendments made to the law on political parties, and attacks on two CNRP lawmakers as further evidence.

“The CPP’s tactics have increasingly threatened not only the safety of opposition parliamentarians, but the credibility and effectiveness of democratic institutions themselves, including the capacity of the parliament to serve its legislative, representative, and oversight roles,” said the report.

“What’s going on in Cambodia today is a canary in the coal mine for attacks on democracy region-wide,” Charles Santiago, president of APHR and a Malaysian congressman, said in a separate statement.

“We’ve seen similar moves in Malaysia and elsewhere. But now the CPP is taking it to a whole new level. We must stand with our Cambodian brothers and sisters who are working to defend democratic principles in the face of this unprecedented onslaught,” he added.

Sok Eysan, CPP spokesman, said the report was published in “revenge”, without elaborating, adding that the courts had conducted their business in line with the law.

Santiago of APHR said the group was “not bound by the principle of non-interference, but by international norms, including legally binding conventions and treaties that ASEAN governments have happily signed”.