Congresswoman Trahan, Local Officials Condemn Arrests of Youth Activists in Cambodia

September 24, 2020

By Khmer Post USA | Facebook/twitter@KhmerPostUSA

LOWELL, MA – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03) was joined by State Representative-Elect Vanna Howard (D- 17th Middlesex) and Lowell City Councilor Vesna Nuon in condemning the recent arrests of more than a dozen Cambodian youth activists by the Hun Sen regime.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan, MA 3rd Congressional District

“Prime Minister Hun Sen has consistently abused his power to silence those who disagree with him and maintain authoritarian control over the Cambodian people. These unconscionable violations of human and civil rights are nothing more than attempts to rule by fear and intimidate those who peacefully voice their opposition,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “The Prime Minister has an obligation to uphold the Cambodian Constitution – a document guaranteeing the promises of democracy to the people of Cambodia that he signed and has vowed repeatedly to uphold. Fulfilling that obligation starts with ending these abuses and unconditionally releasing all political prisoners.”

In what amounts to be a pattern of ongoing human rights violations, the Cambodian government under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen has continued a systematic attempt to undermine and silence critics of his administration. Activists have been detained and prosecuted for expressing dissenting views of their own government, participating in peaceful protests, and associating with the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the former opposition party. 

Most recently, Cambodian authorities arrested 14 youth and environmental activists on incitement charges in recent weeks as they organized and participated in peaceful protests. Nearly a dozen of those arrested were planning protests calling for the release of Rong Chhun, the president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, who was previously detained on similar charges after calling on Hun Sen’s government to address a litany of criticisms on public radio. Three other activists were arrested on September 3rd after they posted on social media about plans to organize a peaceful march in protest of a development project with potentially harmful effects to the environment.

“As a survivor of the genocide that occurred in Cambodia, my country of origin, I have a strong feeling about governments that deny freedom. I strongly support Congresswoman Trahan and others for demanding reforms and standing up for human rights. People should be allowed to express themselves peacefully and freely, in any country, including Cambodia. Speaking to power is what democracy is all about,” said Representative-Elect Howard.

“The very foundation of democracy is rooted in two basic human rights—freedom of thought and the freedom to express those thoughts. Locking up those who voice opposition to their government is an egregious abuse of power. We must publicly condemn the actions of the Hun Sen administration in Cambodia and hold it responsible for these violations of both their national and international law,” said Councilor Nuon.

 Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government has repeatedly violated basic human and civil rights afforded to Cambodian citizens under national and international law. On two separate occasions in 2013 and 2014, protesters were the victims of brutal security force crackdowns at Freedom Park – a public demonstration area in the capital city of Phnom Penh that has since been moved to the outskirts of the city in another attempt to silence dissenting voices.

 On September 8th, The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Cambodia criticized the most recent arrests of activists, saying that Cambodian officials should “ensure that these [activists’] rights are respected and protected and to create an environment in which individuals are able to exercise these rights.”