European Lawmakers May Investigate Jailings

The European Parliament has raised the possibility of sending a fact-finding mission to Cambodia to evaluate the detention of opposition party member Cheam Channy, Cam­bodian Independent Teachers’ As­sociation President Rong Chhun and Beehive Radio station owner Mam Sonando.

The proposal was made Thurs­day when parliament passed a resolution reiterating calls for Cheam Channy’s release and the res­tor­ation of parliamentary immunity to opposition leader Sam Rain­sy and opposition parliamentarian Chea Poch.

“The House also suggests…that an adhoc EP delegation visit Cam­bod­ia as soon as possible,” the resolution reads, “to evaluate the situation of detained parliamentarians, media representatives and trade union leaders in the country and to end the detention of all political prisoners.”

Diplomats familiar with the resolution said they were unaware of a time frame for such a visit.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said a delegation would be welcomed as long as the visitors did not try to interfere in what he described as Cambodia’s efforts to fight terrorism.

“The government holds the right to detain anyone who is accused of terrorism,” he said Sunday, referring to Cheam Channy, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in August for forming a so-called illegal armed force.

With many European countries fighting terrorists in their own countries, he said, to come in with a different standard for Cambodia would be wrong.

“Cambodia is also a country, a sovereign nation,”­ Khieu Kanharith said. “We don’t want a double-standard on human rights.”

A UN official said on condition of anonymity that Yash Ghai, the new UN human rights envoy to Cam­bod­ia, has visited Rong Chhun at Prey Sar prison in recent days.

Sam Rainsy Party senator Ung Bun-Ang said he did not know when the delegation would visit but said such a visit is overdue.

“There’s a need for some intervention,” he said.

Even if Cheam Channy’s release isn’t secured by the delegation, he added, “the gesture will at least be a morale boost for those fighting for democracy.”


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