Rights Groups, Opposition Renews Calls for Cambodia Sanctions

Rights groups and the opposition party have renewed their calls for the United States to impose sanctions on Cambodia in the wake of a wide-ranging crackdown on political dissent.

The proposed sanctions include isolating Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government by placing further visa bans on officials and launching corruption investigations, they said.

The Supreme Court is set to rule in a political party dissolution case against Cambodia’s main opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, next week.

Human Rights Watch’s Asia advocacy director, John Sifton, said the political situation in Cambodia now was “more frightening” than in previous years and that the international community should move to isolate Hun Sen on “the world stage and in Cambodia.”

EU Delegation Expresses Concern Over Cambodia’s Political Situation

A European delegation on a two-day visit to Cambodia warned on Tuesday that a deterioration in the country’s human rights situation could affect European Union aid and trade preferences, both of which provide substantial economic benefits to Cambodia, according to a statement released at the end of their visit.

The warning, although vague, was one of the strongest statements to date by one of Cambodia’s donors over the unfolding political crisis in the country, which has seen the opposition leader jailed and his party under threat of imminent dissolution over charges of treason that human rights groups say are trumped-up.

Solar, Wind Advances Offer Mekong Countries Alternatives to Dams, Coal

Advocates of renewable energy in the United States point to its increasingly competitive cost in arguing against the greater use of fossil fuels. Experts at a U.S. think tank have the same message for countries in the Mekong region, which are considering plans to expand hydropower dams and coal plants.

New economic and technological opportunities for improving and diversifying the Mekong Region’s energy mix are laid out in a report by the Washington-based Stimson Center.

Report co-author Brian Eyler says the region’s governments would be wise to review their energy master plans in order to not miss out.

Cambodia Files Lawsuit Against Opposition

Cambodia’s government is moving to dissolve the main opposition party.

An interior ministry spokesman says the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court with the goal of dissolving the Cambodia National Rescue Party. The ruling party claims CNRP has been involved in a plot to topple the government.

Half of the opposition lawmakers have already fled the country after their leader Kem Sokha was arrested last month and charged with treason. Sokha’s arrest was carried out amid a massive government crackdown against independent news outlets and human rights groups.

Cambodia Rebukes U.N. In Geneva Over Crackdown Criticism

Cambodia’s mission to the United Nations has rejected criticism by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) of Phnom Penh’s moves against media outlets and the closure of a U.S.-funded democracy promotion outfit.

In a statement on Monday, it said the comments from OHCHR were politically motivated and defended Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

“When law and regulations are violated, actions taken by the authorities to prevent the violations should not be explained as a threat or associated with the upcoming national election,” it reads.

Cambodian Media Crackdown Seen as Key Step by Government Ahead of 2018 Elections

Recent moves by the Cambodian government to crackdown on independent media – including broadcasters and newspapers – is seen by analysts and activists as a key step by the government to consolidate control ahead of national elections in 2018.

The tougher approach by the Cambodian government led by Prime Minister Hun Sen – in power for over three decades – comes against a backdrop of growing opposition support, especially among younger voters.

Allegations of a government campaign against human rights

Rights activists also point to a broad strategy by the government against both the media and rights activists.

Cambodian-Americans Say Election Results a ‘Positive Sign for Democracy’

Cambodian-American community activists and analysts have said that the recent local elections that saw the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party win a large share of the vote was a positive development for Cambodian democracy.

The commune elections on June 4 saw an estimated 90 percent of the electorate cast a ballot, with the CNRP increasing the number of commune councils under their control from 40 to more than 400.

Official results of the election will be announced by the National Election Committee towards the end of the month.

U.S. Must Actively Engage with Cambodia to Influence Future Path: Ambassador

The U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia has told a gathering of Cambodian-Americans that the United States should become more active in engaging with Phnom Penh as the country is undergoing a period of rapid change.

Speaking at the meeting in Maryland on Sunday, Ambassador William A. Heidt said the U.S. should not “sit on the sidelines” as developments in Cambodia brought change.

“My message to [Cambodian-Americans] is that Cambodia is changing. It is time for the United States to lean forward and to engage. This is not the time to stand on the sidelines,” he said.

Breast Milk Substitutes Under the Spotlight

The illegal promotion of breast milk substitutes in Phnom Penh is leading to negative health effects, according to a report by Hellen Keller International.

Labeling and point-of-sale restrictions are being ignored, the group said in its report Maternal and Child Nutrition.

It goes on to say that companies are in breach of Sub-Decree 133, which regulates the marketing of the products and requires Ministry of Health permission to promote the products at point-of-sale.

At Screening of ‘Angkor Awakens’, Hopes for Reflection and Progress

By Nem Sopheakpanha

As a Holocaust survivor with a deep interest in Southeast Asia, Robert H. Lieberman has striven to bring the tragedy of Cambodia’s past to the next generation.

The physicist with a passion for the arts has recently released a new documentary, “Angkor Awakens: A Portrait of Cambodia”, which premiered in Washington, D.C., on May 7.

The packed screening received a positive reception and Lieberman hopes it will spur further discussion of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.