Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop remains silent on 'constitutional coup' in Cambodia

Australia's Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop

The Hon Julie Bishop
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Representatives, Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600

19th Nov 2015

Dear Minister

Why do Australian tax-payers contribute in the vicinity of $100 million a year in aid to Cambodia? 

Is it to alleviate poverty and promote democracy? Or is it to prop up Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 3 decades long dictatorship?  

You will be aware of recent events that point to Hun Sen’s intention to bring about, in late 2015, what is, in effect, a ‘constitutional coup’ of the kind he perpetrated in 1997. 

Hun Sen’s latest manipulation of the Cambodian judiciary to issue an arrest warrant for Opposition leader Sam Rainsy is the most blatant evidence of the constitutional coup that has been taking place in broad daylight for some months now:

- Opposition Cambodian National Rescue (CNRP) party legislators Nhay Chamroeun and Kong Saphea were beaten up outside the National Assembly a few weeks ago whilst police stood by and made no attempt to intervene.

- CNRP co-leader Kem Sokha has been removed from his position as first vice president of the National Assembly.

- CNRP legislator Hong Sok Houk has been jailed for posting a map on his Facebook page.

- CNRP activists have been found guilty of, and have received lengthy jail sentences for, taking part in an “insurrection” - a demonstration led by CNRP lawmakers in July 2014. The demonstration turned violent when Cambodian authorities and the black helmeted thugs employed by them attacked peaceful demonstrators.

Do you, as Foreign Minister, have no comment to make about Hun Sen’s clear intention to solidify his position as dictator? 

Will you, on behalf of Australia, not merely express an opinion about the destruction of democracy in Cambodia but do something concrete – like suspend all aid to the country until Hun Sen adheres to the rule of law? 

Or will you wait until Sam Rainsy is arrested and placed in jail to express your “extreme concern” at the course of events and “encourage all parties to refrain from violence.”

There is a time for mealy-mouthed diplomatic platitudes and there is a time for action. Now is a time for action; to demonstrate solidarity with Cambodia’s very delicate democracy by letting Hun Sen know that the time of old-style 20th century dictators has passed; that it is time for him to hand the reins of power over to legislators who have been elected by the Cambodian people in elections free of intimidation and fraud.

If you have any doubts at all about the way in which the Hun Sen regime deals with peaceful protests, please look at the following video I shot last year:

And this one:

Minister, instead of using Cambodia as a dumping ground for refugees to our country, Australia should be doing all it can to encourage the establishment of true democracy in Cambodia. This necessitates standing up to Hun Sen and saying, in appropriate diplomatic language: “Enough is enough.”

best wishes

James Ricketson

Sam Rainsy, leader of Cambodia's opposition CNRP

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