Trahan Applauds House Passage of Cambodia Democracy Act

WASHINGTON, DCCongresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03), a member of the Congressional Cambodia Caucus, supported passage of H.R. 4686, the Cambodia Democracy Act of 2021, bipartisan legislation she cosponsored to direct the President to impose sanctions on Cambodian officials who are responsible for antidemocratic actions and human rights violations.

Congresswoman Lori Trahan

“For years, Prime Minister Hun Sen has used the full force of the Cambodian government to silence critics, muzzle the independent press, and imprison opponents all in an attempt to limit the democratic process and stay in power,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “His actions are in direct violation of international law and the Cambodian Constitution, which he helped ratify. It’s long past time for the Prime Minister and his enablers to be held accountable. Passage of the Cambodia Democracy Act paves the way for strict sanctions necessary to protect Cambodian democracy and human rights. As the representative of the Third District, which is home to one of the largest and most vibrant Cambodian American populations in the nation, I’m proud to support this legislation, and I look forward to working with the President and my colleagues in the Senate to make it law.”

H.R. 4686 was crafted in response to a years-long crackdown on opposing political parties and activists by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his allies in government. Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, the Cambodian government and military forces have engaged in a systematic effort to undermine and silence critics, including by dissolving the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) in the leadup to the nation’s 2018 elections, arresting the CNRP President Kem Sokha, and detaining and prosecuting activists who express dissenting views of their own government.

Many actions by Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government have violated basic human rights afforded to Cambodian citizens under the nation’s constitution and international law. Those acts, including two separate violent security force crackdowns in 2013 and 2014, have been condemned by governments around the world and the United Nations. In September 2020, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Cambodia criticized the arrests of activists, saying at the time that Cambodian officials should “ensure that these [activists’] rights are respected and protected” and that the government should act “to create an environment in which individuals are able to exercise these rights.”

The Cambodia Democracy Act of 2021 directs the President of the United States to impose sanctions on Cambodian officials who are responsible for actions that undermine Cambodian democracy or violate the Cambodian people’s human rights. It also provides a pathway to sanction relief should the government make significant progress toward ending efforts to limit Cambodians’ participation in democracy and human rights. The legislation passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support.

Last September, Trahan was joined by local officials in Lowell in condemning the Hun Sen government’s arrests of more than a dozen youth activists who were planning peaceful protests. Trahan also partnered with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) in November 2020 in calling on then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to address the alarming deterioration in human rights and democratic rule in Cambodia. Earlier this year, Trahan and Markey, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), issued a statement demanding that Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government respect the human rights of the Cambodian people, including those forced to flee the country for fear of persecution, by ending the politically motivated trials against them and ensuring safe passage for those looking to return to Cambodia to defend themselves.