January 13, 2021

Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and Rep. Trahan Demand Cambodian Government Respect Human Rights and Rule of Law

Massachusetts lawmakers condemn Hun Sen’s crackdown and political charges against Members of Cambodia’s leading opposition political party

Washington, DC – Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), lead Democrat on the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Congresswoman Lori Trahan (D-MA-03) released a statement in response to the scheduled January 14, 2021 trial of prominent political opposition leaders in Cambodia. The Government of Cambodia, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, announced last year their intention to try dozens of activists belonging to the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the country’s main opposition party which was outlawed in 2017, sending many of its leaders into exile. Trials against some of the activists are scheduled to begin this week, while many are prevented from entering Cambodia to participate in their own defense.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen’s campaign to silence his political opponents by denying them the right to defend themselves in court reveals disdain for the rule of law,” said Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and Rep. Trahan. “Convening a kangaroo court to punish his critics for their opposition, along with his continued attacks on the press and civil-society, is a reflection of Hun Sen’s growing weakness, not strength. We call upon the Government of Cambodia to allow any individuals facing charges to return safely to Cambodia to participate in their own trials.  However, it is clear that these trials are politically motivated and are operating outside the rule of law. The Cambodia Democracy Act sends the clear message that the U.S. Congress intends to help the Cambodian people deliver on the promise of the Paris Peace Agreements of a generation ago so they can participate freely in their government. We should pass that legislation.”

On January 14, 2021, Cambodia’s Phnom Penh Municipal Court will reportedly try 47 CNRP activists and officials, including Acting CNRP President Sam Rainsy, who lives in exile abroad, and others linked to politically-motivated charges of trying to organize protests against and overthrow the government of Hun Sen. The government has also failed to offer credible evidence to support charges of treason against Kem Sokha, CNRP President, for allegedly attempting to overthrow the Cambodian People’s Party. The Government of Cambodia has failed to issue passports and visas for opposition leaders and activists charged, making it unlikely they will be able to answer their court summons in person.

This letter is part of Senator Warren’s ongoing efforts to ensure that human rights are respected in Cambodia:

  • In November 2020, Senator Warren joined a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging him to address the alarming deterioration in human rights protection and democratic rule in Cambodia
  • In November 2017, Senator Warren, Senator Markey, and former Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) voiced their concern about the arrest and continued detention of Kim Sokha, the leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party and the deteriorating political situation in Cambodia.