‘Unconstitutional’ Travel Ban Still in Effect

A former opposition parliamentarian was prevented from leaving Cambodia last week despite a letter of permission from National Assembly Chairman Chea Sim. 

Still another opposition parliamentarian was barred from leaving on Monday, as was Mam So­n­an­do, owner of the Sambok Khmoum (Bee­hive) radio station.

Meanwhile, a Cambodian legal expert expressed frustration Tues­day that the international com­munity hasn’t done more to pressure the CPP-controlled government to lift the ban. This is be­lieved to be the first time the government has prevented political leaders from leaving sin­ce the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.

“It’s unconstitutional and a blatant violation of human rights,” said Lao Mong Hay, executive director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy. “I cannot understand…how they [the international community] could ignore it. Is this a police state?”

Only the UN and Thai government have spoken out against the ban, with the Thais warning Fri­day that it could “derail” the pro­cess of forming the new As­sem­bly and coalition government.

CPP officials have indicated that the ban could be lifted if the opposition continues to cooperate in forming the new government. Opposition party officials have said the ban constitutes coercion.

Chea Vannath, vice president of the Center for Social Develop­ment, agreed Tuesday that the ban is unconstitutional but said she didn’t expect it to be lifted before the new Assembly convenes.

“To my point of view, the ban will remain effective until the National Assembly can be convened, or maybe longer. It is very much related to convening the Assembly session.”

On Sept 10 opposition activist and former parliamentarian Kem Sokha was prevented from leaving. Govern­ment officials said police had their orders from Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Last week, the Thais thought they had struck a deal with Chea Sim that in­cluded ending the ban, which apparently applies to op­­position parliamentarians, Fun­cinpec gen­er­als and other opposition figures.

Separately, Kem Sokha, chairman of the old Assembly’s Com­mis­sion on Human Rights, got a letter of permission from Chea Sim to attend a five-day work­shop on human rights in Thailand.

But when Kem Sokha sent an assistant to Pochentong Airport late last week to finalize travel ar­ran­gements, immigration pol­ice—after checking with superiors for an hour—said the letter was “canceled.”

Political analyst Kao Kim Hourn said Tues­day that he considers the ban unconstitutional unless the person trying to leave has been charged with a crime or is under an arrest warrant.

On Monday, Mam Sonando was prevented from boarding a plane to France, via Malaysia, even though he had a visa, sour­ces said. Mam Son­ando couldn’t be reached for com­­ment Tues­day. On Sept 9, the Ministry of Information shut down his station, saying that its coverage of alleged Vietnamese involvement in poisonings had en­dan­gered the country’s social order.

On Monday evening a former Fun­cinpec member also was prevented from leaving. A UN monitor witnessed the incident.

Ros Hean, now of the Sam Rain­­sy Party, was stopped by im­mi­gration police at Pochen­tong Airport after buying a round-trip ticket to Bangkok. “He looked at my passport as if he knew me al­ready and then said he had to ask his boss,” Ros Hean said Mon­day evening. “He was gone seven min­utes, then came back and said to me, ‘Sorry, you cannot go. You need to wait two or three days.’ I just want Cambodia to have freedom like it did in 1993 up to early 1998.”

Related Stories

Latest News

The Weekly DispatchA weekly newsletter from The Cambodia Daily delivering news, analysis and opinion to your inbox. Published every Friday at 11:30am. Sign up today.