Asean parliamentarians’ report chiding Hun Sen government’s crackdown on the opposition

The recent changes to the Law on Political Parties and judicial harassment of the opposition lawmakers are part of a “systematic dismantling of democracy”, creating a “dark shadow” over Cambodian society ahead of June commune elections, The Phnom Penh Post Online reported on Tuesday, citing a report by a group of Asean parliamentarians.

Titled “Death Knell for Democracy”, the scathing report describes the government’s sustainable use of a partisan judiciary and National Assembly to hobble the opposition in the wake of the “game changer” 2013 election which saw a unified opposition make unprecedented gains.

Chair of the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Charles Santiago, said the continued targeting of the opposition and Hun Sen’s apparent desire to retain power at any cost, had created an environment that could call into question the legitimacy of the June elections.

The report decries legally dubious cases brought against former Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Sam Rainsy, current party president Ken Sokha and lawmakers Um Sam An, Thak Lany and Hong Sok Hour. It says opposition parliamentarians have a legitimate reason to fear for their own safety as well.

The savage October 2015 beating of CNRP lawmakers Kong Saphea and NNhay Chamroenu by members of Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard unit promoted following their release from prison had a far-reaching impact on other opposition MPs.

CNRP vice president Mu Sochua said the report was spot-on in assessing the government’s multi-pronged attack on the opposition which could be detrimental in the June commune elections.

Besides physical and legal threats, Sochua said the recent barrage of leaked recordings of private phone conversations of party officials and increased surveillance had rendered the opposition unable to function.

CPP spokesman Sok Eysan dismissed the report’s criticism of the judiciary, saying the fair application of the law was the only goal of the kingdom’s courts, not the oppression of a particular party.

He also questioned why APHR would bring up the 2015 beating of two CNRP lawmakers calling the incident an accident that happened years ago and defending the amendment of the Political Parties Law was not done to satisfy critics.