Cambodian-Americans Warn of Dangers of Political Deadlock

WASHINGTON DC – As demonstrations continued in Phnom Penh, Cambodian-Americans in Washington said this week that the international community can no longer stay out of Cambodian affairs, lest the political deadlock turn to violence.

At a discussion at the National Press Club in Washington, held by the Khmer People’s Network for Cambodia, panelists said serious irregularities and fraud had disrupted the democratic process in Cambodia and had brought the ruling and opposition parties to a potentially dangerous deadlock.

Meanwhile, they said, human rights abuses, land grabs and other violations abound—all despite the 1991 Paris Peace Accords, which ended decades of conflict and have become a touchstone for democracy supporters in Cambodia.

Panelist Kim Hort Ou, a spokesman for the People’s Network, told the audience that the international community, and especially the signatories to the accords, cannot remain silent on Cambodia’s current political problems.

“They have obligations to fulfill,” he said. “If they don’t fulfill them, what happens? The credibility of the world goes down, and who is going to believe in them anymore?”

Mark Moorstein, a Virginia-based attorney who works on issues of sugar exports and forced evictions in Cambodia, said Cambodia needs the rule of law “now.”

Cambodians have submitted petitions and letters to the United Nations and other international actors, asking for help, he said.

Some panelists suggested cutting aid to Cambodia to pressure the government to change.

Prom Saunora, chairman of the Cambodia National Rescue Foundation, which supports the opposition, said Cambodians and community leaders in the US need to write letters to their US congressmen, asking them to support a Senate resolution calling for aid cuts to Cambodia, especially considering irregularities in July’s election.

Tung Yap, president of the group Cambodian Americans for Human Rights and Democracy, said an aid cut “will force the current regime to rethink.”

Activist Moeung Son, who lives in exile from Cambodia after speaking out against the government over damage to the temples of Angkor Wat, said the peace accords are the “last tool” for solving Cambodia’s issues. He called the accords, “a mechanism that remains for helping Cambodia return to peace and proper independence.”

Adherence to the accords will prevent a regime from rising similar to the Khmer Rouge, he said. He called on Cambodians “who love the nation” to unite, by providing financial support or joining protests against practices and policies they don’t agree with.