The leader of Australia’s opposition Greens party criticized the political situation in Cambodia as marked by “shocking human rights atrocities” during a joint press conference Tuesday with CNRP President Sam Rainsy, who is touring Australia and New Zealand.
Speaking in Canberra with Mr. Rainsy, Australian Greens leader Christine Milne called on Australia’s government to pressure the CPP government of Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow an independent investigation into last year’s national election and to end the violent suppression of protests.
“Hun Sen, who has an illegitimate government there [in Cambodia], has cracked down on protests,” Ms. Milne said. “He has made it illegal for people to actually come together to protest, [and] earlier this year five workers were shot dead by government forces because they were on the street seeking for a decent wage.”
“There are shocking human rights atrocities going on, but the people of Cambodia are very very passionate about securing a democratic outcome,” she added.
“Australia is in the box seat to help, and the question is: Will Tony Abbott’s government stand up and help Cambodia?” the senator said.
The Australian Greens, who have nine senators in the country’s 76-seat upper house, currently hold the balance of power between the 33 government senators and 31 opposition senators. It allows them to push their policies by blocking passage of legislation proposed by the two main parties.
Mr. Rainsy, who earlier appeared before Parliament’s committee on foreign affairs, defense and trade, where he described the political situation in Cambodia, suggested that Ms. Milne’s call for action could include aid cuts.
“We are here to call on Australia to take the lead in an international campaign to restore democracy in Cambodia,” Mr. Rainsy told reporters.
“Australia is well-placed to take such a lead to help Cambodia,” the opposition leader said. “Australia is a major donor country to Cambodia, which cannot survive, which would not be able to survive, without international assistance.”
In a interview on Australian radio yesterday, Mr. Rainsy responded to a question about recent attacks on ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia, describing them as “very isolated incidents.”
“When thousands of Cambodians die of violence, especially political violence, nobody says anything, but when there is any isolated incident related to other people, you point the finger,” Mr. Rainsy told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “Things have to seen in the general context, its the context of violence and impunity.”
Mr. Rainsy’s party has been widely criticized for racially inflammatory politics.
Mr. Hun Sen was installed as Prime Minister by Vietnam’s Government in 1985.
A number of prominent Australian politicians from both sides of the political divide have spoken against Mr. Hun Sen’s government in recent months over its lethal protest repressions and refusal to investigate last year’s election.
In an op-ed last month, Gareth Evans, who served as Australia’s foreign minister between 1988 and 1996 slammed Mr. Hun Sen for recent political killings and called for sanctions. In the 1989, Mr. Evans was the first major international figure to push for a political solution to Cambodia’s long running civil war.
In a parliamentary debate earlier this month, Phillip Ruddock, the government’s chief parliamentary whip, described Mr. Hun Sen’s CPP government as a “one-party state.”
willemyns@cambodiadaily.com
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