Phnom Penh, only government-opposition dialogue "can stop vicious circle of violence"

An AsiaNews source describes political tensions in Cambodia. Prime Minister Hun Sen orders a crackdown against opposition activists and protesters have been arrested. One of the opposition leaders is being hunted down. The European Union has threatened sanctions "if the climate of dialogue is not restored."

 


Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – “Cambodia needs political dialogue, so that both sides can heal and debate grow along with the citizens awareness",  a Catholic source says to AsiaNews commenting on the recent developments in the country in the midst of a climate of great political tension. The Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which has been ruling the country for 30 years under its leader Hun Sen, has exacerbated the violence and arrested some members of the main opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).

Yesterday, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced three CNRP activists to seven years in prison, guilty of having participated in post-election protests two years ago, which degenerated into violence. The ruling coincided with a sex-scandal that has embroiled the CNRP vice-president, Kem Sokha.

The government has opened a trial for abetting prostitution against the politician, but he has refused to appear in court. On 26 May, security agents raided the CNRP headquarters in the hope of arresting Sokha. "The raid did not go well - says the source - because there was only the politician’s wife. The police have drawn a blank, they do not have the situation under control as they want to believe. "

For weeks, dozens of people have been protesting in front of the Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh. The "Black Monday" movement is calling for the release of five Human Rights activists  (the "Kem Sokha Five") arrested by the government in the course of investigations into the Sokha case (see photo). On May 26 last year, police arrested seven protesters.

According to the source, "it is clear that the crackdown on the opposition has a political and legal motivation. Starting with the 2013 elections, the CPP began to fear losing power. " On that occasion the opposition obtained an extraordinary result: 44% of the votes, gaining 55 deputies in parliament of the CCP’s 68. "For the first time in the history of Cambodia - continues the source - it is possible that the next elections [administrative elections in 2017, the general election in 2018 ed] could go to the opposition." Winning at a municipal level, she explains, "is very important because it means controlling the lists of those entitled to vote, and thus ensuring victory at the general election. In rural municipalities, lists are manipulated to damage the opposition".

On 9 June, the European Parliament called on Phnom Penh to free the Kem Sokha Five and restore a "culture of dialogue" in the country, or risk losing millions of Euros in aid paid each year to Cambodian cases. In a speech at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, Hun Sen rejected the Brussels warnings, stating that European aid go more to the NGO’s than to the government "China however - he added - has never threatened us. Cambodia has its own political independence. Beijing  has never told us to do this or that. "

To stop the escalation of violence, the source said, “opposition to the government is not desirable. Even if the CNRP won, it would not do much better than the current administration. The stakes are so huge that when if it comes to power it will inevitably change skin ". Instead what is needed "is a political discourse, so that each one keeps the other at bay and neither can do as they please. The Cambodian people must be educated to political participation. Power right now is purely seen as military and economic power, not dialectic. Power is either absolute or it is not. "

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