The European Parliament will vote today on a resolution calling on the CPP government to rescind the arrest warrant issued for opposition leader Sam Rainsy, while a similar motion was proposed in Australia’s Senate on Wednesday.
Mr. Rainsy was ordered arrested on November 13 in accordance with an unenforced court decision from April 2011 sentencing him to two years in prison for accusing Foreign Minister Hor Namhong of helping to run the Khmer Rouge’s Boeng Trabek prison camp.
The U.S. has described the warrant as part of a slew of government actions that “recall a more authoritarian period in Cambodia’s recent past,” while the U.N.’s special rapporteur for human rights in Cambodia has said the country may be nearing a “dangerous tipping point.”
Mr. Rainsy pledged to return to Cambodia as scheduled on November 16 to face arrest but later said he would seek to negotiate a free return. He is presently in Strasbourg, France, where the European Union is set to vote on a resolution against the Cambodian government.
If passed, the resolution will state that the European Parliament: “Calls on the Cambodian court to revoke the arrest warrant and all charges issued against opposition leader Sam Rainsy and CNRP members of the National Assembly and Senate.”
It will also call on the CPP government “to end political use of the courts to prosecute people on politically-motivated and trumped-up charges” and describe the removal of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha as the parliament’s vice president as “illegal.”
The resolution incorrectly says that Mr. Rainsy already received a pardon for the two-year jail term he faces. In fact, Mr. Rainsy was pardoned for two other offenses but has been living in Cambodia freely since July 2013 with the 2011 decision unenforced.
Mr. Rainsy could not be reached for comment on Wednesday but said on Tuesday he believed the government would be embarrassed by international ridicule of its attacks on the CNRP and be compelled to allow him to return to the country without arrest.
While both the U.S. and U.N. have expressed concerns about the situation here, the CPP government was handed a reprieve Saturday when U.S. President Barack Obama invited Prime Minister Hun Sen to visit the U.S. with the other Asean leaders next year.
The invitation, Mr. Hun Sen’s first from a U.S. president, has been used by the government to defend against Mr. Rainsy’s campaign to place international pressure on the prime minister.
On Wednesday, Scott Ludlam, a senator for the Australian Greens party, also proposed to have Australia’s Senate pass a motion calling for Mr. Rainsy’s free return.
Mr. Ludlam called for the Senate to unanimously pass a resolution condemning what he said were “some rather nasty political developments in Cambodia,” noting also the beating of two opposition lawmakers outside the National Assembly last month.
The resolution calls on the CPP government to “revoke the arrest warrant issued against Mr Rainsy, and allow him…to return to Cambodia without fear of arrest or persecution” and to “protect and uphold the tenets of multiparty democracy.”
However, Senator Scott Ryan, the ranking government senator in the chamber at the time, raised his objection to Mr. Ludlam’s request, allowing him only a minute to list his grievances.
“I don’t see why the government would be unable to pass a fairly simple Senate resolution today calling on the Cambodian government—in strong terms—to revoke the arrest warrant against opposition leader Mr. Sam Rainsy,” Mr. Ludlam responded.
“It’s an extremely bad sign for democracy in Cambodia, and I would’ve thought a unanimous resolution to that effect would be something very productive, as the United States Department of State has issued very strongly-worded statements to that effect.”
Cambodia is the recipient of a AU$40 million (about $29 million) aid package from Australia over the next four years as part of a controversial deal to accept an unspecified number of refugees apprehended by the Australian government while trying to reach the country’s shores.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said that any E.U. resolution against the Cambodian government would not matter, noting that French colonialism ended in 1953.
“Europe cannot interfere with the Royal Government of Cambodia, as we have to implement the rule of law as set out by the Constitution. We are now no longer a country under the colonization of anyone, we are now a sovereign state,” Mr. Siphan said.
“The second thing is that democracy in Cambodia does not belong to Sam Rainsy as an individual. We do not evaluate personal cults. Sam Rainsy has a personal dispute with the foreign minister, Hor Namhong, and this has nothing to do with the state,” he added.
“If they ask the Cambodian courts to drop the case, it means they are forcing us to act against their own principles of the rule of law.”
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