26 January, 2016 is a day that democrats, civil society, union leaders, human rights activists who represent a vast majority of the people of Cambodia look forward to because of the special relationship Secretary John Kerry has with Cambodia through his active involvement in the establishment of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and his interest in the peoples of the Mekong. The people of Cambodia and the nation’s leaders have high respect for Secretary John Kerry.
Secretary John Kerry is here to prepare for the upcoming (15-16 February) US-ASEAN Summit in Southern California hosted by president Obama.
This is the message to Secretary John Kerry which I conveyed to officials at the State Department and officials at the National Security Council, at the White House during my visit from 14- 15 January, 2016.
ASEAN Summit provides us the opportunity to raise the issues of democracy and human rights in the context of trade.
Cambodia should seize this opportunity and come to the US as a Strong partner. Cambodia is not part of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement but we can present ourselves to ASEAN and the US as a credible market.
Our approach to trade can and must be grounded in what is good for the people and can be an opportunity to develop a skilled workforce, with ILO protections and a livable minimum wage. We have the opportunity to partner with the Brands to be a viable part of the market.
The ASEAN Summit must look at TPP and trade with a “human face”.
Democracy and Human Rights
Voters wanted change at the last election. We want change without violence and we want the people of Cambodia- youth, women- to part of creating the reform agenda for the future. We need to make structural reforms and democracy sustainable.
The CNRP is not just in opposition to the repressive Hun Sen administration but more importantly we address the people’s agenda for building Cambodia and our future as a society based on human rights, democratic values and the dignity of our people.
While the CNRP has always been a leader on human rights and partner with civil society and unions we also know we need to partner with the ruling party in a culture of dialogue and have pursued this. A culture of dialogue can only work if the opposition can be free to speak without threat or fear of violence and intimidation.
The recent violent attacks on 2 opposition elected members of parliament, the arrests and prosecution of CNRP activist and leaders need to be investigated and all charges against CNRP leaders, MPs, activists dropped.
The CNRP also partners with other supporters of democracy across our region. We believe the issues of democracy and human rights need to be part of the upcoming ASEAN Summit and that the ASEAN culture of “non- interference” must be corrected. Human rights is a global issue. Trade is a global issue. They cross borders.
What Secretary John Kerry should take back to the White House
What we want/need the U.S. to do:
Keep the hope of the peoples of ASEAN alive by standing firm for the protection of human rights, labor rights, freedom of speech and assembly in its trade policies;
Support the release of civil society and opposition leaders from jail, the dropping of all charges;
Do not recognize any election results without the participation of opposition leaders who are forced to exile and/or imprisoned on drummed up charges;
Support a peaceful transfer of power after democratic elections.
Hold countries accountable by implementing sanctions to governments who undermine democracy by suspending friendly military training, develop a designated persons visa list;
Demand independent investigation and prosecution against those responsible for the violent attacks on CNRP leaders, the murders of union leaders, workers and environmentalists.