(New York) – The United States should publicly demand that the Cambodian government retract threats to retaliate against the political opposition in Cambodia if there are protests at the upcoming US-ASEAN summit over Prime Minister Hun Sen’s participation. US President Barack Obama will meet with Hun Sen and other leaders of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on February 15-16, 2016, at the Sunnylands estate in California.
Obama should also publicly press Hun Sen to end violence and harassment of opposition supporters, drop criminal charges against peaceful protesters, and release all political prisoners in the country.
“Hun Sen and his surrogates are telling American citizens that if they exercise their right to protest on US soil there will be attacks against the political opposition in Cambodia,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “The US government should say publicly that it won’t allow a leader with a proven record of violence to chill speech in the US.”
On October 25, 2015, after peaceful protests against an official visit to Paris by Hun Sen which he said had been organized by the opposition Cambodian National Reconciliation Party (CNRP), he warned, “If someone comes back at you tomorrow in Phnom Penh with the same game, don’t be angry.” He added, “Tomorrow there will be a demonstration in Phnom Penh against the opposition party to demand the removal” of CNRP Acting President Kem Sokha from his post of first vice-president of the National Assembly.
A large and well-organized demonstration by forces loyal to Hun Sen took place as forecast, with many members of the army and the prime minister’s bodyguard unit, dressed in civilian clothes, identified as participants. This was followed by a premeditated and brutal assault on two CNRP National Assembly members on the grounds of the parliament. Members of government security forces were involved in the attack. Both victims had to be evacuated to Bangkok for emergency medical treatment. Soon afterward, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) met in parliament in the absence of the boycotting CNRP members and removed Kem Sokha from his post.