Mu Sochua To Testify Before US Rights Panel

SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua was scheduled to testify this morning before a US Congressional commission on human rights in Cam­bodia, and is expected to tell the panel that the country is rife with corruption, political intimidation and in need of reform.

In a copy of her prepared statement to be read before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Com­mis­sion, Ms Sochua tells of her failed defamation court case against Prime Minister Hun Sen and offers a litany of troubles, from corruption in the judicial system to flawed elections to the ruling CPP’s tight grip on power. She goes on to say that her personal legal troubles are all too common in Cambodia.

“I am one of the thousands of innocent journalists, trade union leaders, teachers and villagers who are tried by a judicial system that is well known for corruption, for incompetence and for acting under the control of the government and those who have political influence and money,” she wrote.

As for her own case against the premier, Ms Sochua wrote that she had little hope in overturning her guilty verdict.

“Without any doubt the guilty verdict will stand,” she wrote in her statement. “This will lead to a prison sentence and the automatic loss of my seat in parliament, without intervention from donors who are assisting Cambodia,” she adds.

The Congressional commission, which is named after the late Democratic Party congressman, Tom Lantos, who was a Holocaust survivor and human rights advocate, will also include testimonies from Kek Pung, founder and president of local rights group Licadho, and Moeun Tola, head of the legal aid organization Community Legal Education Center’s labor program.

In her remarks, Ms Sochua also mentioned a list of recommendations to the US Congress, including sending a high-level delegation to Cambodia. That delegation would help in putting an end to the lifting of parliamentary immunity as a means of political persecution. Ms Sochua also called for beefed up spending on news outlets like Voice of America and Radio Free Asia and imposing visa sanctions on senior Cambodian officials and their immediate family who are suspected of corruption.

“We call on the US government to impose visa sanctions on high-ranking officials in the Cambodian government and their immediate family members, suspected of corruption, of involvement in land grabbing and deforestation, and to investigate their investments and bank accounts in the US. These investigations should be made public.”

In anticipation of the hearing, Cambodia’s embassy in Washington issued a statement claiming individual freedoms and rights are both guaranteed and respected within Cambodia.

Spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Kuy Kuong said the embassy announcement was addressed to the US general public and seeks to balance what are expected to be remarks made to the commission that are critical of the Cambodian government and the CPP.

“The US Congress only invited the opposition groups,” Mr Kuong said yesterday. “This is another side of the report” that the commission should hear.

Citing the nation’s Constitution and the “thousands of civil society organizations, as well as free press and trade unions which have been operating in the country,” the statement said Cambodia was a country of laws where its people enjoy free speech and an unencumbered press.

The embassy’s statement also focused heavily on explaining the recent court verdicts regarding defamation and disinformation saying, “Freedom of expression is not absolute and does not allow one person to defame another person. It also does not permit a campaign of disinformation to take place repeatedly.”

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the government has the right to clarify any points they wish, but he added that although the government’s record may appear clean on paper, there exist serious failings in respects to human rights and good governance.

“They only say about the good things,” he said of the government. “In reality there is a serious violation of human rights.”


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