[Date As Appropriate]
Dear [appropriate congressional committee]:
The Cambodian-American community, the largest of the Cambodian diaspora and spread across all states, fully endorses the “S.3081 Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019”. This act would put appropriate pressure on the Cambodian government to increase political freedom with multiple political parties, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press. With governmental reform, the Cambodian government can evolve from its neopatrimonialism.
In 35 years under Prime Minister Hun Sen, various harsh and repressive actions continue to undermine the democracy that Cambodia was meant to have since its UN-guided government restructure following the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements. One of the most egregious attacks on democracy is the elimination of a viable political opposition. The primary leader of the leading opposition party, Kem Sokha, was subjected to a farce trial, with charges for conspiring with a foreign power. This charge also accuses the United States government and a number of U.S. entities such as the National Democratic Institution and the International Republican Institute as “co-conspirators in the attempted overthrow of the Hun Sen government”.
The administration also continues to prevent civil society participation and criticism from the press through the assassination of Cambodia’s leading political analyst, Kem Ley: a case in which Amnesty International has found new and critical evidence proving the corruption and ineptitude of Cambodia’s judicial system. New developments include the arrest of Rong Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, and leading advocate for worker rights in Cambodia, followed by an increase of arbitrary arrests and torture of environmental youth protestors. For both of these cases, Cambodian American organizations nationwide have been working tirelessly together towards seeking justice and ways to protect and rebuild sustainable pillars of democratic institutions in Cambodia.
Recently, the Cambodian government has used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to adopt a highly repressive “Emergency Powers Act” granting the Cambodian government the ability to restrict all civil and political liberties, including targeting human rights, democracy, and media groups. While Prime Minister Hun Sen claimed this is a necessary response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the law is overly broad and ambiguous, establishing the groundwork for Hun Sen to have absolute power over the Cambodian people. Its implementation amplifies the government’s ability to repress and eliminate critics under the guise of preventing the spread of misinformation, all while being disproportionate and unnecessary to address the public health crisis at hand.
All of these cases, just a few of the many that have occurred throughout Hun Sen’s reign, exemplify the era of censorship and intolerance Cambodians are subjected to.
This, coupled with Cambodia’s developing relationship with the Chinese communist state along with China’s military presence in Koh Kong, poses a threat to economic and military stability in both Cambodia and the broader Southeast Asian-Austronesian region. According to reports from the Office of the United States Trade Representative, U.S. goods exports to Cambodia in 2018 valued $447 million, up 11.6% ($46 million) from 2017 and 189.7% from 2008. The top export categories (HS-2) in 2018 were: vehicles ($290 million), food waste, animal feed ($27 million), machinery ($24 million), paper, paperboard ($12 million), and hides and skins ($9 million). Much of Cambodia’s fast rates of development are due to the U.S. and E.U. exports, yet the resulting economic boom mainly benefits Hun Sen and his government. As Hun Sen continues to violate human rights and suppress political freedoms with EU’s economic sanctions, we urge the appropriate congressional committee to place into full effect Sec. 3 Sanctions Relating to Undermining Democracy in Cambodia and full implementation on both of economic sanctions on Cambodia and sanctions on persons and affiliates listed by Human Rights Watch and Global Witness by the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act.
The following civil society organizations and individuals request your assistance in bringing to a vote S.3081 the “Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019” as well as pass legislation imposing full economic sanctions upon the Hun Sen government.
Joint statement by Cambodian civil organizations residing outside Cambodia:
1. Alliance Cambodge Canada (ACC)
2. Cambodia Border Institute (CBI)
3. Cambodia Women Health Organization (CWHO)
4. Cambodian Alliance for the Paris Peace Agreements on Cambodia (CAPPAC)
5. Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy (CAHRAD)
6. Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy League Activist (CAHRADLA)
7. Cambodian Association of Victoria (CAV)
8. Cambodian Australian Federation (CAF)
9. Foundation of Khmer Samaki (FKS)
10. Khmer Alliance Foundation (KAF)
11. Khmer Association of Hampton Road Virginia (KAHRV)
12. Khmer People Network for Cambodia (KPNC)
13. Khmer Unity for Cambodia (KUC)
14. Khmer Veterans Freedom Fighters Association (KVFFA)
15. MeBoun Foundation (MF)
16. Our Mutual National Interests International (OMNI)
17. Overseas Khmer Summit (OKS)
18. Pro Démocratie pour le Cambodge du Canada (PDCC)
19. Working Group on Cambodia (WGC)