Cambodians 'undermining democracy' to face visa sanctions if travelling to the US

Sergio Conner
December 7, 2017

Cambodia's Supreme Court dissolved the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), last month at the government's request.

"As the Prime Minister of Cambodia, I declare to receive our brothers and sisters from the U.S. and will not allow anyone to mistreat [all of you], Mr. Hun Sen said, adding that he will not let Cambodian people suffer like other nationals who were refugee and who were placed on an island".

The move comes amid an intense push by Hun Sen's government to neutralize political opponents and silence critics ahead of an election next year, often through the country's pliant courts.

As the White House stated in a November 16, press statement, the United States is taking concrete steps to respond to the Cambodian government's actions that have undermined the country's progress in advancing democracy and respect for human rights.

The State Department said family members of those responsible may also face visa restrictions. Kem Sokha was arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government with US help. The dissolution of the CNRP has been condemned by some Western countries as the most serious blow to democracy since an worldwide peace deal and United Nations -run elections in the early 1990s ended decades of war and genocide. The announcement only mentioned that individuals could be denied entry under a provision of USA immigration law if the secretary concludes it would have "adverse foreign policy consequences".

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"The CNRP are not politicians, they are rebels and terrorists", he said. The European Union has raised the possibility of withdrawing trade preferences which are vital for the garment industry that accounted for well over 60 percent of Cambodia's exports past year.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Sam Rainsy called on soldiers not to obey any "dictators" if they are ordered to shoot innocent people.

Hun Sen, who has held power for more than 32 years, a said the military would file a lawsuit in response.

The Supreme Court banned the CNRP after its leader, Kem Sokha, who took over after Sam Rainsy stepped down, was arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government with American help.

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