CSOs condemn opposition crackdown and express concern over threats to democracy

CSOs condemn the severe crackdown which is being undertaken by the Royal Government of Cambodia (“RGC”) against Cambodia’s political opposition, along with the absolute control of the judiciary being exercised by the RGC in order to harass its opponents.

On Friday, 13 November 2015, the Phnom Penh municipal court issued an arrest warrant for Cambodian National Rescue Party (“CNRP”) President Sam Rainsy, in what was clearly a politically motivated move. On Monday, 16 November, the opposition leader was stripped of his position as a member of the National Assembly (“NA”) by the NA’s standing committee, who used the arrest warrant as justification. This development is the latest in a string of arrests, convictions, threats, and beatings orchestrated by the RGC against the political opposition in recent months. This crackdown represents a major threat to democracy and fundamental freedoms in the Kingdom of Cambodia.

The arrest warrant issued on Friday relates to a defamation conviction that was handed down in 2011, arising from a statement allegedly made by Sam Rainsy in 2008. The sudden reappearance of an arrest warrant for this conviction, more than 7 years after the alleged incident, coincides with numerous threats of legal action against Sam Rainsy that have been issued by Prime Minister Hun Sen in recent weeks. The issuing of this warrant has clear political motivations and provides yet another example of the RGC’s control over the Cambodian judiciary, which it continues to use as a tool to stifle dissent in Cambodia.

1. CSOs call upon the Royal Government of Cambodia to refrain from exercising political control over the judiciary, to depoliticize the courts system, and to allow democracy to flourish in Cambodia.

2. CSOs call upon the CPP and CNRP, and the supporters of both parties, to remain calm and to refrain from engaging in violence of any kind as the political situation deteriorates.

3. CSOs call upon the international community and Cambodia’s donors to exert pressure upon the RGC to resolve Sam Rainsy’s case through peaceful negotiation, and to end the practice of using the courts to clamp down on the political opposition.

See full version of press releases in Khmer and English below.