UN, Thais Condemn Opposition Travel Ban

The UN and the Thai government have criticized a continuing government travel ban on opposition parliamentarians, and a Thai Foreign Ministry official has warned there could be repercussions.

But the government insisted the ban was only temporary, and might be lifted after a meeting of the top three parties this week.

Thomas Hammarberg, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for human rights in Cambodia, said in a statement Sunday that he is “seriously concerned” about the policy, noting that freedom of movement is a “fundamental freedom recognized under international and Cambodian law.”

In his statement, Hammarberg said “freedom of movement may only be limited in individual cases in which a person is under lawful arrest or detention for a duly prescribed criminal act or subject to a lawful arrest warrant. The special representative is unaware of any such legal arrest warrant at the time the travel ban was imposed until the present.”

In a letter Friday to National As­sembly President Chea Sim, Thai Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Sukhumbhand Paribatra wrote that opposition leaders had agreed to halt demonstrations and participate in a summit based on the assurance that elected parliamentarians would be provided freedom of movement and freedom from arrest and detention.

“The Royal Thai government is deeply concerned that any delay, un­certainty or failure in honoring these mutual commitments by either side could derail the pro­cess of convening the National Assembly” and forming the new government, Sukhumbhand said. He also warned that it could affect Cambodia’s efforts to re­gain its seat at the UN, its entry into Asean and economic assistance by foreign donors.

His letter urged the Cambo­di­an government “to take concrete measures to ensure the safety, the freedom of movement and the freedom [from] arrest and detention of all elected members of the National Assembly.”

Diplomats say that the government is using the ban to prevent opposition leaders from boycotting the new Assembly by leaving the country.

Opposition officials, who have con­demned the policy as unconstitutional, claim that only Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who flew Friday from Siem Reap to Bangkok for a brief trip, currently enjoys freedom of movement.

It was unclear Sunday whether anyone else has actually tested the policy in the past few days.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith acknowledged Sun­day that the ban is still in effect, “just for people who might be involved” in opposition dem­on­strations or negotiations. “It’s temporary. We expect it to be lifted soon, maybe after” the summit meeting this week, he said.

Funcinpec spokesman Ahmad Yahya said Sunday that if the ban isn’t lifted right after the summit, “there will be no forming the government, there will be no forming the National Assembly.”

Last week, an adviser to Chea Sim said that Chea Sim had agreed to relax the ban. But that apparently is not the case.

The controversy surfaced when opposition activist Kem Sokha was prevented from leaving Cambodia on Sept 10. Khieu Kanharith said Kem Sokha

cannot leave because he was in­volved in the opposition demonstrations.

(Additional reporting by Marc Levy)

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