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Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen Calls for Closure of Main Human Rights Group

Traffic passes in front of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights’ headquarters yesterday in Phnom Penh.

PHNOM PENH – Prime Minister Hun Sen called on authorities to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), yesterday after claiming that it was supporting foreign influence influence in the country.

“The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) must be shut down because it was created by foreigners not Cambodians. The ministry of the interior should look into this,” said the Prime Minister.

The jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha created CCHR – a group that never fails to criticise Hun Sen’s administration for civil and human rights violations – back in 2002, shortly before his return to politics in 2007.

The leader of the now dissolved opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has been jailed since early September when he was charged with ‘treason’ for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government with the aid of foreign governments.

Sokha has said these charges are false and that they are an attempt for the Cambodia People’s Party (CPP) to hold onto power and guarantee the July 2018 election to Hun Sen.

The CNRP was dissolved earlier this month at a Supreme Court ruling that was ordered by Hun Sen’s CPP. The decision has been widely criticised by international watchdogs, with the US-based group Human Rights Watch even calling it a “naked power grab”.

“If it’s an international NGO, and they come to create it and ask our permission, it’s not an issue,” the Prime Minster added during his address in front of garment workers on Sunday. “But this is one is [registered] Khmer and was created by foreigners.”

In response to the Prime Minister’s request that CCHR be closed, the group released a statement that underscored their importance and relevance to Cambodian society and refuted any accusation that they were anything but independent:

“CCHR firmly believes that any independent and impartial investigation into CCHR would find no wrongdoing whatsoever on the part of the organisation. CCHR calls upon the Royal Government of Cambodia to enter into meaningful dialogue with CCHR representatives in relation to these allegations, in the firm belief that any misperceptions about the nature of CCHR’s work and neutrality could be clarified and the matter resolved.”

The Ministry of the Interior secretary of state Pol Lim said that a meeting would be held today to determine whether or not the CCHR would continue to function, the Phnom Penh Post reported.

By: Johanna Chisholm
Southeast Asia Globe

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