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Cambodian Opposition Leader Urges Action to ‘Save Democracy’

2017-10-06

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[00:00.00]
  • A Cambodian opposition lawmaker says she fled the country to avoid arrest.
  • [00:07.85]
  • She accuses the government of continuing a campaign of repression against her party’s leadership.
  • [00:18.28]
  • Mu Sochua told Reuters news agency she decided to leave Tuesday after learning she might be arrested.
  • [00:29.75]
  • It is not clear where she has gone.
  • [00:33.52]
  • Monday, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen warned of strong action against any politicians linked to a treason case against opposition leader Kem Sokha.
  • [00:49.98]
  • Sokha leads the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
  • [00:57.75]
  • He was charged with treason and detained.
  • [01:03.27]
  • Cambodian officials accuse Sokha of planning to overthrow the government.
  • [01:10.06]
  • ​CNRP officials accuse Hun Sen of ordering the arrest of its leaders and taking steps to prevent the party from operating.
  • [01:22.03]
  • Hun Sen is a member of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP).
  • [01:30.07]
  • The 65-year-old ruler has led the country for 32 years.
  • [01:35.94]
  • A general election is planned for next July.
  • [01:41.06]
  • The CNRP says almost half of its opposition party lawmakers have either left Cambodia or are in jail.
  • [01:51.67]
  • A recent legislative amendment permits the government to end political parties for national security reasons.
  • [02:02.39]
  • Mu Sochua wrote Wednesday in a note to The Associated Press, “The situation is very serious and has direct impact on 2018 elections.”
  • [02:16.21]
  • She continued, “I no longer feel safe inside the country. My voice needs to be heard inside and outside.”
  • [02:26.57]
  • She told Reuters she thinks the international community needs to act to “save democracy” in Cambodia.
  • [02:35.78]
  • She said, “The time for statements has passed. It’s time for sanctions, targeted sanctions. Also suspension of technical aid to the government of Cambodia.”
  • [02:51.19]
  • The lawmaker suggested sanctions could include visa restrictions on top Cambodian officials.
  • [02:59.48]
  • But she added that any restrictions should not target the exports of clothing.
  • [03:06.35]
  • Those exports – most of which are sent to the U.S. and European Union – provide work for hundreds of thousands of Cambodian workers.
  • [03:18.05]
  • In answer, a government spokesman said there was no reason for any country to place sanctions on Cambodia.
  • [03:27.89]
  • “This is a sovereign state and it will protect its sovereignty,” the spokesman said.
  • [03:35.57]
  • He said he could not comment on possible future arrests because they are handled by the judiciary.
  • [03:44.18]
  • Human rights groups say Hun Sen’s government uses its control over the judicial system to frighten its political opponents and activists.
  • [03:55.88]
  • The U.S. State Department reported in 2016 of major human rights problems in Cambodia.
  • [04:04.58]
  • Phil Robertson is deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.
  • [04:10.56]
  • He commented on the situation in a statement released Wednesday.
  • [04:16.25]
  • He said if CNRP leaders are forced out of Cambodia before next year’s election, it would, in his words, “effectively mean the death of Cambodian democracy.”
  • [04:30.95]
  • He said no one doubts that Hun Sen can order immediate violence by the military and police.
  • [04:38.80]
  • In his words, Hun Sen, “controls all the levers in Cambodia’s kangaroo courts.
  • [04:46.72]
  • The 2018 election is going to be neither free nor fair under these circumstances.”
  • [04:54.76]
  • I’m Bryan Lynn.
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