News In Review: Cambodia – October 28, 2015

photo credit: Reuters

Cambodia’s tense détente between the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) and the 35-year-ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) grew more uneasy as two CNRP lawmakers were attacked outside the National Assembly this week. Hun Sen continues to consolidate power within his government, and Cambodia continues to accept refugees from Australia, while rejecting them from Vietnam.

CNRP Lawmakers attacked outside the Cambodian National Assembly

On October 26, two lawmakers, Kung Sophea and Nhay Chamraoen, members of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), were brutally assaulted outside of the National Assembly by supporters of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). It happened while thousands of people gathered outside the building, demanding that Kem Sokha, deputy leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), step down. Witnesses claim that many of the protesters were police forces in civilian clothing. Tension between the two parties rose earlier this year as the CNRP accused accusing neighboring Vietnam of encroaching on Cambodia’s side of the border. Prime Minister Hun Sen maintains favorable relations with Vietnam.

Cambodia: New Violence Against Opposition.” Human Rights Watch. October 27, 2015.

Demonstrators beat up 2 Cambodian opposition lawmakers.” Associated Press. October 26, 2015.

Takihiro, Chea. CNRP Lawmakers Beaten Outside of National Assembly. Khmer Times. October 26, 2015.

Vietnamese Montagnard Refugees Live in Limbo in Cambodia

Thirteen ethnic Montagnard Christian refugees, from the central highlands of Vietnam, have been ordered by the Cambodian Government to voluntarily return to Vietnam by February 6, 2016 (a recently extended date), or be resettled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to a third country by January 10, 2016. The Montagnards are a Christian minority claiming to be escaping religious and political persecution in Vietnam. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) warns that forced return of the refugees and unregistered asylum seekers “would constitute refoulement,” as Cambodia is party to the Geneva Refugee Convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Cuddy, Alice. “UN urges against repatriating Montagnards.” The Phnom Penh Post. October 26, 2015.

Kitya, Tha. “Cambodia Extends Deportation Deadline For Asylum-seeking Montagnards.” Radio Free Asia. October 21, 2015.

Wright, George and Aun Pheap. Deadlines for Montagnards Pushed Back, Ministry Says. The Cambodia Daily. October 21, 2015

Australia sends Refugees to Cambodia

Australia holds 1,565 asylum-seekers – 1,359 men, 114 women and 92 children at detention and offshore asylum processing centers on Nauru and Manus Island, island nations northeast of Australia. The conditions in the centers have been deemed deplorable. Australia made a deal with Cambodia, promising $55 million dollars (approximately $40 million USD), in exchange for Cambodia taking refugees. Thus far, only four refugees have agreed to resettle to Cambodia. Australia has been accused “dumping” refugees on other Asia-Pacific Islands, while policy analysts observe that while Australia historically contributes aid money with the expectation that Cambodia will improve its human rights record, no such accountability can be made with this money going forth.

Anderson, Stephanie and Dan Conifer. “Refugee transferred to Cambodia returns to Myanmar; Shorten slams ‘pathetic’ $55m deal.” ABC Australia. October 15, 2015.

Jackson, Will. “Refugee deal has hidden bonuses: policy analyst.” The Phnom Penh Post. October 24, 2015.

Refugee Resettled In Cambodia Returns To Myanmar: Australia.” Khmer Times. October 16, 2015.

Prime Minister Hun Sen struggles to fend off criticism; appoints son as head of Intelligence at the Ministry of Defense

Prime Minister Hun Sen continues to consolidate family power in the government with the recent appointment of his son Hun Manith as head of intelligence at the Ministry of Defense. Three of Hun Sen’s sons hold a position in the government. Considered an architect of peace following the reign of the Khmer Rouge, Hun Sen has held power for thirty years in Cambodia, which is technically a democratic country. He held a bloody coup to retain his rule in 1997, and many believe that his recent move signals fear of insecurity regarding the 2018 election against the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). His recent trip to France was met with large protests. And, he has exclaimed that a win for the CNRP will mean a return to the Khmer Rouge. Many of Hun Sen’s close allies have gotten used to a life of “luxury” since the takeover from the Khmer Rouge, and have expressed that they do not want to lose access to that lifestyle.

Hun Sen’s Second Son Promoted to Intelligence Chief.” Voice of America, Khmer. October 23, 2015.

Moniroth, Morm. “Cambodia’s Hun Sen Names Son Head of Military’s Intelligence Department.” Radio Free Asia. October 22, 2015.

Willemyns, Alex. “Hun Sen, Pondering Defeat, Has War on Mind.” The Cambodia Daily. October 26, 2015.

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