Cambodia Main Opposition Message to US Congress

The visit of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, D-MA is timely with the upcoming elections and the latest shooting of villagers by member of the armed forces and the shooting of workers by a man dressed in police uniform.

The Sam Rainsy Party is bringing up these issues to the US Congress and the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the US Congress, with specific recommendations:

Our concerns continue to lie on the role of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in the protection of land concessions to high ranking officials and companies. Since 2010 Cambodia has allowed local businesses and multinational co-operations to “sponsor” (pay) the military in return for the military’s services in guarding selected private lands and enforcing concessions.This clearly creates a conflict of interest between private business and the public’s right to security.

We question the US Defence Department spending around $4.5 million from 2006-2010 to support RCAF (http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/07/08/cambodia-halt-us-aid-abusive-military-units). In 2010, a unit of the RCAF based in Kampong Speu province was the recipient of the US Global Peace Initiative that resulted in $1.8 million being spent on the construction of the ACO Tank Command HQ and a two week training course. This was a perturbing development, as the unit had a notorious reputation for its frequent involvement in land evictions and human rights violations, a fact well documented by both local and international NGOs. In the same year, one of its Brigades seriously wounded at least 4 people in a forceful eviction of 116 families. (HRW – World Report 2011 – Cambodia). In February of this year protesting villagers from Kompong Speu were met by well-armed soldiers who threatened to shoot if the villagers continued their protest. These protests are usually led by women.

On behalf of the Cambodian people, we call upon the US Congress to support our people’s desire to enjoy their inalienable human rights. We call for the US State Department to stand by a firm commitment to free and fair elections. We believe this could be achieved by your body advocating the following proactive steps:

– Given that the US Government funding to RGC and support to RCAF comes through the Appropriations Bill, it is necessary that a performance review on human rights be conducted on an annual basis by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission;

– Future support to RCAF must be linked to its neutrality to provide protection to the people and not function as private or political armed forces;

– Support alternative media accessible to the opposition and local organizations for voter education;

– Place US visa restrictions on those suspected of abusing their positions of power in order to commit human rights violations with impunity for personal profit.

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