MORE THAN 50 non-governmental organisations have signed an open letter calling upon the United Nations to call an “emergency summit” to discuss the 1991 Paris Peace Conference on Cambodia, amid Prime Minister Hun Sen’s crackdown against political opposition, civil society and the media.
The letter – addressed to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, French President Emmanuel Macron and Indonesia’s Joko “Jokowi” Widodo – urged “concrete action” in light of “severe deterioration” of Cambodia’s democracy and human rights situation in recent months.
Almost three decades ago the Paris Peace Agreements were signed, bringing an end to more than 20 years of violence under the genocidal regime of the Khmer Rouge and war with Vietnam. It marked the first ever time the UN took over total administration of a whole country.
The agreement ostensibly established conditions for a democratic Cambodia, with the UN’s mission to foster “an environment in which respect for human rights shall be ensured” and provide ongoing monitoring of the human rights situation there.
Signed by groups from around the world including Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch, and Indonesia’s Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS), the open letter this week states that members of the Peace Conference are obliged to “immediately undertake appropriate consultations … in the event of the agreements being violated.”
“These obligations exist to this day, despite Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s recent claim that ‘the Paris Peace agreement is like a ghost’,” it said.
While Indonesia and France co-chaired the conference, other parties included Australia, Japan, China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and the United States.
Since earlier this year, Hun Sen has rapidly suppressed his political opponents, the press and civil society organisations – including arresting the Cambodian National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha on charges of treason, forcibly closing the US-funded National Democratic Institute along with 31 independent radio broadcasts.
The letter described a “major escalation in intimidation and surveillance of civil society workers and human rights defenders.”
Fewer than 40 percent of CNRP members of parliament remain in Cambodia, it said, violating the clause in the Paris Peace Agreements that: “Cambodia will follow a system of liberal democracy, on the basis of pluralism. It will provide for periodic and genuine elections.”
Already the world’s longest-serving prime minister, Hun Sen has vowed to rule for at least another ten years. On Monday, the PM said it was a “fact” that the CNRP would be dissolved ahead of elections slated for next year.
The Cambodia Daily newspaper – forced to close by Hun Sen’s government in September after being handed a US$6.3 million tax bill – said it would continue to publish, albeit offshore and possibly only online.