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On Cambodia, After ICP Asked UN Of Move to Arrest Rainsy, UN Watching

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 17 -- Cambodia pushed back at the UN system under Ban Ki-moon, and now what? Now the UN has nothing to say amid crackdowns. On November 16, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: I’m wondering if on Cambodia you have anything… the opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, has had his immunity removed and is no longer a Member of Parliament, and the idea is he is going to be arrested.

Spokesman Dujarric:  I do not.

 But 24 hours later, after the US issued a statement, in the November 17 noon briefing Dujarric's deputy brought in a piece of paper. "Cambodia?" Inner City Press asked. It was. Here is the UN's statement:

"The Secretary-General is following with concern the increasing tensions between the ruling party and the opposition in Cambodia.  The arrest warrant issued against opposition leader Sam Rainsy on 13 November and earlier incidents against opposition parliamentarians and leaders are worrisome developments.

The Secretary-General urges the Cambodian People's Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party to resume their cooperation and dialogue and encourages all political players to refrain from violence, intimidation and harassment. A non-threatening environment of democratic dialogue is essential for political stability and a peaceful society."

   On November 17, after the UN's no-comment,  the US State Department issued this statement, by deputy spokesperson Marc C. Toner:

“We are deeply concerned by today’s removal of Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Sam Rainsy from the National Assembly in a unilateral move by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party. His removal is another step backwards for Cambodia’s progress towards a free and democratic society. We call on the National Assembly to reinstate Mr. Rainsy immediately and to restore his parliamentary immunity. We also call on the government to revoke the arrest warrant issued against him on seven-year-old defamation charges and to allow him and other opposition Parliamentarians to return to Cambodia without fear of arrest or persecution.

Today’s actions are the latest incidents of harassment and intimidation targeting Cambodia’s opposition, including the recent violent attacks on Members of Parliament and the removal of opposition party deputy leader Kem Sokha from his position as First Vice President of the National Assembly. The Cambodian people will vote in provincial elections in 2017 and in a national election in 2018. Recent elections in the region show that people want freer, more democratic societies, and we expect that the Cambodian people will reward leaders who create a more open, inclusive political climate.

We urge the government to take immediate steps to guarantee a political space free from threats or intimidation in Cambodia, and for the government and opposition to engage in serious and meaningful dialogue on actions to strengthen Cambodia’s democratic future.”

  But even hours later, there was no UN comment.


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