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APHR issues open letter expressing deep concern over deteriorating human rights and democracy in Cambodia

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) has publicly voiced its concerns over the escalating human rights crisis and the erosion of democracy in Cambodia.

The group detailed its worries in an open letter sent to the parliaments of Canada, the European Union, Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States Congress.

In the letter, the APHR describes how Cambodia has been gradually sinking into authoritarianism under Prime Minister Hun Sen, expressing profound concerns that the situation poses not only to the people of Cambodia but also to the international community.

The situation has reportedly worsened drastically in recent years, particularly after the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in 2017 by Hun Sen’s government.

In what the APHR deems an alarming development, the letter outlines a series of aggressive actions and threats made by Hun Sen’s government against opposition supporters.

The government is said to have shut down one of the last independent media outlets, Voice of Democracy (VOD), threatened a former opposition leader with violent repercussions, and sentenced another opposition leader, Kem Sokha, to 27 years of house arrest on dubious treason charges.

The APHR’s letter further criticizes the Cambodia National Election Commission’s (NEC) recent rejection of the registration of the main opposition Candlelight Party for the forthcoming July elections.

The decision, it argues, is based on a manufactured bureaucratic obstacle, effectively blocking any potential competition against Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party in the upcoming elections.

The APHR fears that Hun Sen’s government is driving the final nail into the coffin of Cambodia’s democracy, arguing that any elections held under the current circumstances would lack legitimacy.

They insist that the international community should not recognize a government created from such elections as legitimate.

The APHR is urging these global democratic parliaments to take stronger action to deny legitimacy to the July elections in Cambodia.

It calls on them to use their legislative mandate to condemn the 2023 electoral exercise in Cambodia as undemocratic and call for an end to political persecution.

They also advocate for the release of political prisoners, reinstatement of a politically diverse environment, and an independent investigation into human rights violations and electoral irregularities.

The APHR believes that legislative action condemning Hun Sen’s human rights abuses would align these nations with the global community standing up for democracy and human rights. This would also send a clear message to the Cambodian government that such actions will not be tolerated.

The APHR urges the addressed nations, who themselves have come to power through democratic elections, to stand by their commitments to human rights and democracy by coming to the aid of the people of Cambodia.

The APHR ends its letter with confidence in the international community’s commitment to these principles.

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