Dear Friends,

Our group of about 18 Cambodian civil organizations residing outside of Cambodia has created a petition "Alarming violations of human rights in Cambodia" to U.S. Senators/Congressmen.

Please click here to open the Google Form to sign the petition above. If you have any questions about these petitions, please contact us. Thank you for helping make Cambodia a better place!

Dr. Nicole Ung
Phone: 786-548-0092
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Subject:  Alarming violations of human rights in Cambodia 

 

Dear Senator [Senator name or Congressman name]:

 

I am one of your constituents, and I am very concerned about the state of human rights and democracy in Cambodia.

 

I would be very grateful if you could do everything within your power to help resubmit the HR 526 Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019, HR 1376 Cambodia Trade Act of 2019, S. 34 Cambodia Trade Act of 2019 and S. 3081 Cambodia Democracy Act 2019 and help pressure the Cambodian government to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and others held for the peaceful exercise of their basic rights.

 

I support the joint statement by the 18 Cambodian civil organizations residing outside Cambodia below.

 

Thank you,

 

Your constituent

 

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March 23, 2021 

Joint Statement on Alarming violations of human rights in Cambodia 

 

We, the undersigned Civil Society Organizations, are writing to you to support for the protection of human rights and the development of democracy in Cambodia.   

 

As the 30th anniversary of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreements on Cambodia is approaching, the agreements that the US helped shape, Cambodia is sliding backward to the total destruction of civil society and democratic institutions, including the outlawing of the political opposition and the mass criminal trials of its leaders and members on charges of  “treason.” The US needs to demand the end of the mass criminal treason trials now taking place, the end of criminal prosecutions of critics of government policies, and an end to the debilitating restrictions being imposed on the activities of human rights and democracy support organizations.

 

The UN statement addressing the Hun Sen government in the 31st meeting of the 45th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council on October 1, 2020 was later affirmed and supported by the most recent joint statement of UN human rights experts and Special Rapporteurs, condemning the Hun Sen government of its action tightening restriction on civil society, and called for an immediate end to the systematic detention and criminalization of human rights defenders, as well as excessive use of force against them.[1]

 

The UN statement also addresses that human rights defender, Mr. Rong Chhun was arrested on July 31, 2020 after taking up the case of farmers in Tbong Khmom province who had their land taken in connection with a border demarcation between Cambodia and Vietnam. Subsequently, several other human rights defenders who demonstrated against his detention were also arrested and detained.

 

The joint statement issued by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on November 16, 2020, expresses special concern about the widespread and increasing practice of arresting and intimidating the people who express views opposing the Hun Sen’s government policy, and the people who defend the exercise of free expression, association, and peaceful assembly.[2]  Arresting and detaining Mr. Rong Chhun, a prominent Union Leader, other human rights defenders and environment activists substantiate the repression on freedom of expression and association and peaceful assembly.[3]

 

The Australian member of parliament member shares the similar concern and condemns the Hun Sen’s government for recognizing no limit as to who it will target and arrest, seriously the basic institution of civil society and a democratic system.[4]  Mr. Hun Sen also threatens the families of the activists in order to further suppress human rights defenders and criminalize their courageous efforts to protect the rights of others.[5] On March 11, 2021, the EU echoes similar concerns.[6]

 

Mr. Hun Sen‘s court began mass trial and convicted in absentia of the opposition officials, activists for treason and incitement.[7]  Long prison terms for former opposition leaders is appalling.[8] What is also alarming is that Mr. Hun Sen exerts extra territorial judicial power to summon U.S. citizens to this mass trial as well.

 

The Cambodian constitution, the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international human rights treaties guarantee the rights of freedom of expression, freedom of association, and of citizens to participate in government through free, fair and credible elections that are periodic and transparent.  The Cambodian people has recognized their rights and responsibilities as the citizens of Cambodia, but Mr. Hun Sen and his government have intentionally failed to fulfill their legal obligations.

 

We sincerely appreciate the U.S. Congress for initiating the HR 526 Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019, HR 1376 Cambodia Trade Act of 2019, S. 34 Cambodia Trade Act of 2019 and S. 3081 Cambodia Democracy Act 2019.

 

European Union took initial measure to withdraw 20% of Everything but Arms from Cambodia, but Mr. Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People Party (CPP) will never comply.  Only severe sanctions against Mr. Hun Sen, his family members, his associates, including the senior leadership of the CPP ruling party, and their companies can restore the respect and the protection of human rights and democracy in Cambodia; a real democratic Cambodia will become a great friend of the US, giving the US another reliable partner in Southeast Asia. 

 

For the above reasons, we respectfully request the US Congress, US Department of State, US treasury and US Administration to take the following measures until Mr. Hun Sen restores the rule of law and the respect for human rights and democracy in Cambodia: 

 

  1. To place the CPP leaders, their senior leadership, their generals, their family members, their associates, and their companies on the sanction list under the Magnitsky Act for their human rights abuses, corruption, land grabbing, destruction of the environment and money laundering.
  2. Resubmit the HR 526 Cambodia Democracy Act of 2019, HR 1376 Cambodia Trade Act of 2019, S. 34 Cambodia Trade Act of 2019 and S. 3081 Cambodia Democracy Act 2019.

 

Cambodian Civil Society Organizations:

 

  1. Cambodia Border Institute (CBI)
  2. Cambodia Women Health Organization (CWHO)
  3. Cambodian Alliance for the Paris Peace Agreements on Cambodia (CAPPAC)
  4. Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy (CAHRAD)
  5. Cambodian Association of Victoria (CAV)
  6. Cambodian Australian Federation (CAF)
  7. Committee for Paris Peace Accords on Cambodia-Minnesota (CPPAC-MN)
  8. Foundation of Khmer Samaki (FKS)
  9. Khmer Alliance Foundation (KAF)
  10. Khmer Association of Hampton Road Virginia (KAHRV)
  11. Khmer People Network for Cambodia (KPNC)
  12. Khmer Unity for Cambodia (KUC)
  13. Khmer Veterans Freedom Fighters Association (KVFFA)
  14. MeBoun Foundation (MF)
  15. Our Mutual National Interests International (OMNI)
  16. Overseas Khmer Summit (OKS)
  17. Pro Démocratie pour le Cambodge du Canada (PDCC)
  18. Société Buddhiste Khmère (SBK)

 

Contact person: Dr. B. Nicole Ung, Board Member of Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy (CAHRAD), Phone: 786-548-0092 Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

[1] U.N Human Rights Council 21st meeting at its 45th Regular Session on Human Right Situation in Cambodia, (2020)  http://webtv.un.org/search/id-human-rights-in-cambodia-31st-meeting-45th-regular-session-human-rights-council/6196565360001/?term=Rhona%20Smith&sort=date#player

 

[2] Cambodia: UN experts alarmed by civil society crackdown, attacks on defenders,(2020) https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26505&LangID=E 

 

[3] Union Leader Appeal the Arrest, Detention (2020)  https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=youtube+arrest+of+Rong+Chhun&docid=608003001210833719&mid=7E11F67A2A56567A008D7E11F67A2A56567A008D&view=detail&FORM=VIRE  

 

[4] Cambodian Human Rights - The arrest of Rong Chhun is shameful, (2020)  https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=youtube+arrest+of+Rong+Chhun&&view=detail&mid=BB10F8B5E3C3784B36BEBB10F8B5E3C3784B36BE&rvsmid=7E11F67A2A56567A008D7E11F67A2A56567A008D&FORM=VDQVAP

 

[5] Cambodia: Hun Sen Threatens Families of Activists, (2020) https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/10/28/cambodia-hun-sen-threatens-families-activists  

 

[6] EU MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION on the mass trials against opposition, (2021) https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/B-9-2021-0185_EN.html

[7] Cambodian Court Begin Mass Trial of Opposition Officials, Activists for Treason and Incitement, (2020)  

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/trial-12292020172617.html

 

[8] Cambodia: Long prison terms for former opposition leaders appalling, say UN experts (2021), https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26848&LangID=E&fbclid=IwAR05vAiBWDo3drjdwoQTW07A-Vdabau1ud4e12rjL5JeOYf6Ha0tTFFMyY0

[Date As Appropriate]

[Name]
[Address]
[Address]
[Address]

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)

Dear Friends,
 
Our group of about 20 Cambodian civil organizations residing outside of Cambodia has created the petitions below in response to the rampant arrests and violations of human rights in Cambodia.
 
 
Please click here to open the Google Form to sign all three petitions above.  If you have any questions about these petitions, please contact us. Thank you for helping make Cambodia a better place!
 
Dr. Nicole Ung
Phone: 786-548-0092
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

[Date As Appropriate]

[Permanent Mission Name]
[Address]
[Address]
[Address]

Dear [Permanent Mission Name]:

We, the undersigned organizations, would like to call the UN Member States’ attention toward the declining human rights situation in Cambodia that has taken place through a wave of politically motivated arrests and detentions. Authorities have continued to detain and prosecute people for expressing negative views of the government, taking part in peaceful activism or human rights work, or associating with the former opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Kem Sokha, former president of the CNRP, was arrested in 2017 and still remains unable to leave the country, conduct political activities, and is required to respond if summoned by authorities. He was arrested for a 2013 speech he made in Australia, where he was discussing a strategy to win the next election. The Cambodian Government charged Sokha with conspiring with a foreign power, and, despite Sokha's parliamentary immunity, he was arrested, denied access to fair representation, and held in pre-trial detention which exceeded the maximum period under Cambodian law. While awaiting trial in prison, Sokha had learned that his party and its members, the only legitimate oppositional party recognized by the international communities, was subsequently dissolved by the Supreme Court under Hun Sen’s government. Overnight, more than 5000 legitimately elected communal members of the CNRP found themselves thrown out of their elected positions, banned from political activities for five years, and targeted for arrest or physical abuse, all before Kem Sokha's trial had even begun. This cleared the way for the Hun Sen’s party, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), to win 100% of the seats in the 2018 parliamentary elections.

A collective voice from international experts has raised major concern that “the arrest and criminal trial of Kem Sokha were politically motivated,” and surely, Sokha has not been the only victim of Hun Sen’s campaign of political oppression. Cambodian citizens associated with the CNRP, such as Chao Veasna and Keo Thai, have been arrested for merely doing their jobs as local officials and English teachers. Eang Maryna, Khut Chroek, and Ngin Khean have been arrested over Facebook posts criticizing Hun Sen’s management of COVID-19. Thai Sokunthea was arrested for reasons virtually unknown.

Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, was arrested for asking the government to address the people’s complaints on Radio Free Asia. Two youth environmental activists, Hun Vannak and Chhoeun Daravy, were arrested for asking for Rong Chhun’s release. Three more activists, Thun Ratha, Long Kunthea, and Phoun Keo Reaksmey, were further arrested for their work on behalf of environmental issues.

It is widely recognized in international law that many forms of harsh repression, such as arbitrary long-term imprisonment, executions, and physical assaults, constitute torture under the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture. However, these types of punishments have become a key element of the policies and practices of the Cambodian government, as reflected in the treatment of critics and political opponents of the Hun Sen regime. At the forefront of these human rights violations are the brutal physical attacks against members of the National Assembly Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea by members of Hun Sen’s Personal Bodyguard Unit; the assassination of well-known activist Kem Ley; the long-term detention of Meach Sovanarra, the Press Officer for the political opposition; and the subjection of Kem Sokha to long-term house arrest, periodic arbitrary detention, and prosecution for treason. Each must be considered violations of the anti-torture provisions of the ICCPR.

These are just a few people in a long, running list of those who have been arbitrarily arrested and subjugated to human rights violations under Hun Sen’s government. We have compiled numerous cases of Cambodian people who have fallen victim to Hun Sen’s campaign of political oppression. While many have played key roles as former members of the CNRP, some are merely citizens exercising their rights to freedom of expression. In any case, the pattern remains clear—any person who openly critiques and challenges Hun Sen’s regime falls under immediate threat by the government, although it is their right to do so.

On April 29, 2020, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cambodian government passed the “Law on Governing the Country in the State of Emergency.” This Law grants the Cambodian government the ability to restrict all civil and political liberties, as well as target human rights, democracy, and media groups. While Hun Sen has claimed that this is a necessary response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation of this Law contains many overly broad and vague provisions that allow him to enact absolute power over the Cambodian people—all without specifying why these measures are necessary and proportionate to address the public health emergency.

This Emergency Powers Act presents yet another means for the government to continue cracking down on political opposition members, civil society organizations, and independent journalists and media organizations. Since the pandemic gained widespread traction in March, Cambodian authorities have already arbitrarily arrested at least 30 people, 12 of whom were associated with the CNRP, on charges of spreading “fake news” regarding COVID-19 and alleged incitement and conspiracy. Many of these people were merely sharing information and expressing their concerns over the coronavirus. At least 14 of those arrested were released after being given an official warning and signing a pledge to stop spreading government-deemed “fake news,” while the others remain in pre-trial detention or have been released on bail with charges pending. Of those still being held in pre-trial detention, at least 12 of 14 were associated with the CNRP. This implies that harsher charges are being activated against those associated with the oppositional political party, wrongly justified by means of maintaining social order amid a global pandemic.

Meaningful democracy is not possible when power is retained by silencing legitimate party representation. One of the key elements for the establishment of the current state of Cambodia that was approved by the international community, the United Nations, and the government of Cambodia itself under the terms of the Paris Peace Accords of 1991, was that the principles of democracy and free and fair elections would form the basis for governance and the political process in Cambodia. These principles are further endorsed and protected under Article 25 of the ICCPR. However, by outlawing and closing down the major political opposition party, and by subjecting its leaders and members to harsh physical assaults and threats of arrest, imprisonment and criminal prosecutions, Hun Sen’s government has rejected these principles of democratic governance in favor of a one-party system of authoritarian and dictatorial control.

It is urgent that all governments, the United Nations human rights agencies, and the international community as a whole, speak out forcefully and frequently against the highly repressive actions that these arbitrary arrests represent. In March 2021, Cambodia will undergo a session review in Geneva. We urge the Member States ambassadors to 1) Reiterate these concerns by making an oral statement during this session, and 2) Consider imposing more stringent economic sanctions on trade with the government of Cambodia, to go along with and push for the elimination of “Everything But Arms” favorable trade preferences that the EU recently imposed on Cambodia. The Member States should threaten the stoppage of all trade with Cambodia if they continue the Kem Sokha trial and the other highly repressive policies that they have recently imposed, including the newly adopted national security law that would further entrench these dictatorial policies. These recommendations come in favor of restoring order and democracy to Cambodian society, as well as the reinstatement of key human rights to all.

We, the undersigned people and organizations, continue to condemn these human rights violations enacted by the Cambodian government. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and others held for the peaceful exercise of their basic rights and urge the Member States to join us in taking action toward these goals.

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)