Will Cambodia’s situation be raised at the US-led Summit of Democracies in Costa Rica?
Civicus, a prominent NGO based in South Africa, has released a signed petition to protest the order by the Government of Cambodia to revoke the Voice of Democracy’s media licence. It is believed an article about the Prime Minister’s son, Hun Manet, sparked the action, despite an offered apology. Cambodia is scheduled to hold an national election in July 2023.
“We, the undersigned media and civil society organizations, are deeply disturbed by … order to revoke the license of Voice of Democracy (VOD), one of the last remaining independent media outlets in Cambodia.”
“The closure of VOD … undermine the government’s own claims regarding respect for the free press in Cambodia and appear to reflect a failure to uphold the 1995 Law on the Press. The decision to revoke VOD’s media license ahead of the July 2023 national elections represents a fresh wave of intimidation tactics against the country’s dwindling independent media that mirrors the 2017 closure of the Cambodia Daily and the 2018 sale of the Phnom Penh Post.”
The international watchdog group followed up by adding Cambodia to its Civicus Monitor of countries that have seen a “rapid decline in civic freedoms.”
Josef Benedict, a researcher with Civicus, laid out concerns as possible violations of international human rights treaties, citing the country’s sustained crackdown on unions, human rights defenders, and the political opposition.
The move against the VOD follows legal actions countrywide against 36 mostly regional activists of the opposition Candlelight Party. See post about legal actions against Thach Setha, the party VP.
The international media follows to a degree the jostling between the Hun Sen government and the opposition and independent media. The politics of South East Asia weighs significantly in the global balance between the varieties of democracy.
There is not much new to the story. The government continues to take actions considered as designed to neuter the media and the opposition. Embassies express their dismay and regret that such deeds occur. NGOs cite the relevant international treaties likely ignored. Prime Minister Hun Sen signals no change of course. No donor agency appears to have reduced its presence or its spending in protest. The economy, though strained by environmental damage, continues to attract investment from China, Europe, and United States.
Whether the situation in Cambodia will be on the agenda at the upcoming Sunmit of the Democracies, has not been announced. It is uncertain whether there exists even procedure or mechanism to do so.
Opposition International’s concern is to monitor any unwarranted actions against Candlelight party leaders. Common sense as much as legal exegesis will answer the question, Does the opposition face a fair election in July? And one fairly reported?
The Freedom House 2022 Report views political rights as less realized than civil (including media) rights (1/8 to 1/3).
An old song starts with…
J’aime l’oignon frit à l’huile,
J’aime l’oignon quand il est bon.
J’aime l’oignon frit à l’huile,
J’aime l’oignon, j’aime l’oignon.