US Congress passes Cambodia Democracy Act
© WikiMedia (Heng Reaksmey)
US Congress passes Cambodia Democracy Act

The US Congress passed the Cambodia Act of 2019 Monday, which aims “To promote free and fair elections, political freedoms, and human rights in Cambodia, and for other purposes.”

The bill was introduced by Congressman Ted Yoho, of Florida’s Third District and Lead Republican for the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, after Cambodia’s government passed laws that would enable them to revoke the registration of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that the government believed were working in opposition to them. This included all 500 of the US Peace Corps volunteers who provided English language and health care training to Cambodian citizens.

In addition, the government, under the control of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has led Cambodia since 1985, arrested the President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Kem Sokha, on charges of treason, claiming he attempted to overthrow the government. The bill calls for his immediate release as well as reinstating his party, which was dissolved by the Cambodian Supreme Court in 2017. The CNRP’s previous leader, Sam Rainsy, remains in exile, but plans to return to Cambodia in September, where arrest warrants await him upon arrival.   

The bill notes that the six elections that have been held in Cambodia since Hun Sen took office that were not “free and fair,” and that the Hun Sen government has used intimidation, violence, fraud and “misuse of legal mechanisms,” to deprive opposition candidates and parties the opportunity to participate in government.

In a statement Yoho said, that the Act will “push back against the Hun Sen regime’s undermining of democracy and related human rights abuses by applying financial sanctions to the figures who carry out this despicable agenda.”