Sens. Cruz, Markey, Durbin Call on Cambodian Government to Allow the Peaceful Return of Opposition Party Members and Democracy Activists

As member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I, along with Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced a resolution calling on the Cambodian government, led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, to allow for the peaceful return of opposition party members and democracy activists to the country this weekend. Since 2017, the Hun Sen government increasingly has taken bold steps to undermine human rights, democracy, and freedom of expression. Many members of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) and other supporters of multi-party democracy have been living in exile, while others have had to serve extended sentences under arbitrary criminal charges. Now, the Hun Sun government, apparently in conjunction with the assistance of other regional governments, is blocking leaders of the CNRP from returning to Cambodia ahead of its November 9 Independence Day.

Saturday marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the brutal communist regime that built it. It is fitting that this Saturday, pro-democracy advocates and political dissidents will make their brave return to Cambodia with the hopes of stemming the tide of authoritarianism, and restoring democratic norms. I am proud to join Sen. Markey on this important resolution, and urge its swift passage. The United States must stand unflinchingly with the people of Cambodia in their quest for freedom and democracy.

"The Hun Sen government has clamped down on the rights and freedoms of the Cambodian people for too long, and now it is attempting to intimidate former CNRP leader Sam Rainsy and other opposition leaders," said Senator Markey, top Democrats on the East Asia Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "We call upon the Cambodian government to allow them to peacefully travel to and through the country. The Hun Sen government must know that the world is watching."

"The Cambodian government's oppression of political opposition must end," said Senator Durbin. "I'm proud to join Senators Markey and Cruz in calling on Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to release his political prisoners and restore basic freedoms to the country's democratic process."

I have long advocated for democracy and human rights in Cambodia, specifically calling for the release of the Cambodian opposition leader:

• In October 2017, I wrote a letter to the Cambodian Embassy demanding the release of opposition leader Kem Sokha, president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP). Sen. Cruz issued a release following the Cambodian Ambassador's dismissive response.
• In December 2017, I praised then-Secretary Tillerson's action against the Government of Cambodia and Prime Minister Hun Sen, issuing visa bans against those responsible for the unjust imprisonment of Kem Sokha.
• In February 2018, I joined the Cambodia Accountability and Return on Investment Act, which would sanction Cambodian officials responsible for carrying out human rights abuses.
• In January 2019, Chris Coons (D-Del.) and I introduced the Cambodian Trade Act, which aims to hold Prime Minister Hun Sen and his government accountable for exploiting preferential treatment afforded to Cambodia by the U.S. and Europe, while failing to meet basic democratic freedoms.

Read the full text of the resolution here.


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