Rohingya crisis: Cambodian opposition leader in exile Sam Rainsy calls for ‘restraint’
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Rohingya crisis: Cambodian opposition leader in exile Sam Rainsy calls for ‘restraint’

CAMBODIA’s exiled co-founder of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) Sam Rainsy has called upon the leader of Burma (Myanmar) Aung San Suu Kyi to “show restraint” and respect for human rights regarding the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State.

Rainsy, who has been in self-imposed exile since 2005 over fear of arrest by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government, took to Twitter on Thursday to state that “the core of Lord Buddha’s Teaching is compassion & respect for the lives of all creatures on earth, starting with people.”

Renewed violence has gripped Burma’s northern Rakhine State since Rohingya Muslim militants attacked the outposts of security forces on Aug 25. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) now reports at least 370,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past three weeks.

SEE ALSO: Rohingya crisis a ‘textbook example’ of ethnic cleansing

Many in the international community have condemned violence against Rohingya as disproportionate, accusing the Tatmadaw military of Burma of burning civilian villages, extrajudicial killings and rape. The UN’s human rights head has expressed it appears to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Rainsy’s call adds to a growing list of prominent international leaders calling upon Suu Kyi to denounce anti-Rohingya violence, including fellow Nobel laureates Malala Yousafzai and Desmond Tutu, as well as Pope Francis.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has said that Buddha would “definitely” have helped Rohingya Muslims, expressing he was “very sad” over the situation in the Rakhine.

Cambodia itself is undergoing political turmoil, with PM Hun Sen seen to be presiding over a crackdown against the opposition, civil society and the media.

Earlier this month, authorities arrested the now-leader of the CNRP Kem Sokha at his home in the middle of the night, charged with treason and allegedly conspiring with a foreign power to harm Cambodia.

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Exiled CNRP leader Sam Rainsy. Source: Twitter

Hun Sen has said that the opposition could be dissolved altogether if it continues to protect Kem Sokha. Rainsy recently told France 24 in an interview the Prime Minister was responsible for a “constitutional coup” and that the “façade of democracy [had] crumbled.”

The independent newspaper The Cambodia Daily was shuttered after being slapped with a US$6.3 million tax bill, while the US non-profit National Democratic Institute (NDI) was forced to close its local offices by Cambodian authorities who expelled its foreign staff.

SEE ALSO: 5 signs of Cambodia’s ‘descent into outright dictatorship’

The US Congress-funded media organisation Radio Free Asia announced this week that it would cease operations in Cambodia after 20 years because it was becoming “impossible” to operate under Hun Sen’s regime.

The government has “no intention of allowing free media to continue operating inside the country ahead of the 2018 elections,” it said in a statement.

“Radio Free Asia’s decision to quit Cambodia shows just how badly the media environment has deteriorated under rising government pressure,” said Shawn Crispin, the senior representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) in Southeast Asia.

“If Cambodia wants to continue to be viewed as a democracy, this campaign of media intimidation must stop.”