Prime Minister Hun Sen must free Kem Sokha immediately
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today issued the following statement regarding a letter the Cambodian Embassy sent him on Tuesday, which was sent in response to his letter of October 23 expressing concerns about the unjustified imprisonment of Kem Sokha, president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP):
“On October 23rd, I wrote to Cambodian Ambassador Chum Bun Rong demanding the release of Kem Sokha, President of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). As I made clear to the Cambodian government at the time, charging Kem Sokha with treason is the latest step in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ongoing quest to evade democratic accountability and undo the work the United States, Japan, and Europe have invested in Cambodia since the Paris Peace Accords in 1991. Beyond imprisoning the political opposition, Kem Sokha has shut down radio stations carrying programming from Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, banned the National Democratic Institute from operating inside Cambodia, and threatened to officially dissolve the CNRP.
“Yesterday, Ambassador Bun Rong responded to my inquiry with dismissive excuses and empty platitudes. ‘It is not fair that the Cambodian government is criticized and threatened with punitive action for taking legal action to protect its own security, peace, independence, and sovereignty, just as any other nations would do,’ the Ambassador laments. Further, ‘[t]he arrest of Kem Sokha and the imminent dissolution of the [CNRP] does not spell the end of pluralistic and democratic institutions in Cambodia.’ Rather, in the Ambassador’s and Prime Minister’s opinion, the ‘counterproductive agents of change,’ like Kem Sokha, are the true threat to Cambodia.
“This attempt from the Cambodian government to assuage the United States is deeply concerning. Tomorrow is the final day Cambodian citizens can register to vote in the 2018 elections. If specific conditions are not met, including releasing Kem Sokha, allowing radio stations to resume broadcasting at their discretion, and allowing democratic organizations to operate within Cambodia, it will be impossible for the United States and our allies to recognize the legitimacy of these elections.
“Hun Sen must take the first step toward meeting these conditions by freeing Kem Sokha. And he must do so immediately. Otherwise, I will work with my colleagues in Congress and in the administration to see that, as an initial response, specified government officials responsible for these actions are prevented from traveling to the United States.”