Samrang Pring/Reuters, Riot police blocked the street outside Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Oct. 1, as protesters called for the release of jailed land-rights activist Mam Sonando.
By SAM RAINSY
The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune
Published: October 30, 2012
"Hun Sen responded to the recommendations from Mr. Subedi, a Nepalese professor of law, by telling him to go away and worry about his own country......If Hun Sen won’t engage with the international community and the Asean summit isn’t moved, President Obama, the leader of the world’s standard-bearer of democracy, should take Hun Sen at his word and stay away." - Sam Rainsy
As the U.S. presidential election approaches, Barack Obama is in danger of allowing his good offices to be used as part of an attempt to deny Cambodians the opportunity for self-determination that Americans take for granted.
President Obama is due to visit Cambodia next month as the country holds the presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2012. Ahead of Cambodian elections in July 2013, Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power since 1985, has been engaging in a familiar pattern of cracking down on the voices of opposition. He knows that it’s an easier and safer way to win elections than allowing democratic debate.
The summit meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that Mr. Obama plans to attend should be moved to another country in order to deny Hun Sen the legitimacy he is seeking to garner from the event.
Those with a record of opposition to Hun Sen are in dread of the period right after Mr. Obama’s scheduled visit.
The owner of the Cambodia’s Beehive radio station, Mam Sonando, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on Oct. 1 on politically motivated charges that he had been part of a secessionist movement. The radio station had allowed airtime for such inconvenient issues as maternal mortality, human trafficking, labor rights, environmental protection and the need for an independent judiciary.
Hun Sen had publicly called for Mam Sonando’s arrest on June 26. He was held on July 15, two days after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left the country after attending an Asean regional forum.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, Surya P. Subedi, in July recommended reform [pdf] of the country’s electoral system. Among his 18 recommendations was the key demand for the reform of the National Election Committee to make it a neutral body. This has been rejected by the Cambodian government.