PRIME Minister Hun Sen has called for the closure the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), an NGO founded by detained opposition leader Kem Sokha.
Hun Sen instructed the Ministry of Interior to investigate and close one of the country’s main human rights groups “because they follow foreigners,” linking the group to the alleged “revolution” by the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) that lead to the party’s dissolution on Nov 16.
Kem Sokha, who is currently in jail on charges of treason, founded CCHR in 2002. Hun Sen suggested on Sunday at a gathering of garment workers, that Sokha had attempted to conceal foreign influence in the NGO.
— Monovithya Kem (@MNVKem) November 26, 2017
“The Ministry of Interior should check, because they were created by foreigners, not Khmers,” he said, as reported by The Phnom Penh Post.
“If it’s an international NGO, and they come to create it and ask our permission, it’s not an issue,” he continued. “But this one is [registered as] Khmer and was created by foreigners to do this and do that.”
A crackdown on critics of Hun Sen, the world’s longest serving prime minister, has already led to curbs on some independent media, the closure of NGOs and the dissolution of the main opposition party, prompting criticism from Western donors.
CCHR has long been critical of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and its failure to advocate for human rights and free and fair elections.
— CCHR Cambodia (@cchrcambodia) November 26, 2017
The NGO released a statement Sunday denying the charges levelled at them by the prime minister.
“CCHR wishes to re-affirm its absolute non-partisanship and independence from all political parties. Strict independence is a core value of CCHR, which strives to provide a balanced and principled human rights analysis of public affairs, without favoring any party,” the statement reads.
“CCHR firmly believes that any independent and impartial investigation into CCHR would find no wrongdoing whatsoever on the part of the organization.”