WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) today joined Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dick Durbin (D- Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) in introducing the Cambodia Accountability and Investment Act (CARI).
The CARI Act restricts assistance to the Cambodian government due to actions taken as it relates to regional security, their failure to enforce sanctions against North Korea, and efforts to protect the rights and responsibilities enshrined in the Cambodian constitution including the immediate release of opposition leader Kem Sokha and jailed journalists and other activists. The legislation requires continued implementation of the visa denial policy imposed in December 2017 until free and fair parliamentary elections have taken place, and provides for the freezing of assets of any individual captured by that policy.
“This legislation is an appropriate response to Hun Sen’s protracted tyranny and unrelenting destruction of democracy in Cambodia,” Sen. Cruz said. “Kem Sokha remains imprisoned with the opposition party dismantled. How the United States responds to this authoritarian ploy will carry implications throughout the region. Hun Sen and his patrons in Beijing should not underestimate America’s resolve to preserve democracy in Cambodia and Asia.”
“Democracy is dead in Cambodia today because the Cambodian government is under the influence and control of China,” said Sen. Graham. “The Cambodia Accountability and Investment Act (CARI) I introduced today with my colleagues builds on the State Department’s forceful response to China’s attempts to colonize that country. To the people of Cambodia: The U.S. continues to stand with you and your aspirations for a country that is firmly rooted in democracy and the rule of law, as envisioned in the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement.”
“The United States has invested heavily in helping Cambodia build a more peaceful, democratic, and stable nation,” said Sen. Durbin. “The current government has squandered every opportunity to improve the lives of its people—focusing instead on maintaining their own grip on power. Dissolving the main opposition party marked the end of democracy in Cambodia and robbed the people of their right to choose their leaders. America must send a message that the cowardly repression of political opposition and civil society is unacceptable and must stop.”
“This legislation sends the right signal that the United States will stand up for democratic principles like free and fair elections and free press and civil society in Cambodia,” said Sen. Cardin. “The United States has no interest in seeing our support in Cambodia end with an entrenched and abusive autocratic ruler in power.”
“The United States, having invested so much in Cambodia’s reconstruction and development, cannot stand idly by as its nascent democratic institutions are systematically dismantled, fundamental freedoms are denied, and the opposition is locked away and silenced,” said Sen. Leahy. “Our legislation sends a message to the Cambodian government that there is a cost to suppressing the rights of the people.”
The CARI Act also requires U.S. executive directors of each international financial institution to oppose assistance to Cambodia until free and fair elections have taken place. Further, it authorizes counter influence programs to highlight China’s uniquely destructive role in that country during the 1970s, serving as a stark reminder to the Cambodian people that history should not repeat itself.