Cambodia statement - 23/10/17

October 23, 2017

In September I spoke in this chamber on the arrest of Mr Kem Sokha, leader of the Cambodian opposition party, the CNRP, on charges related to a speech he gave here in Australia. Mr Sokha is set to face the courts in Cambodia on 31 October, where he could face up to 30 years in prison. I'm deeply concerned that Mr Sokha's trial will be far from transparent and fair. Meanwhile, the CNRP is at threat of being disbanded by the Supreme Court of Cambodia, and more than half of its elected members have fled the nation in fear of reprisal and political arrest.

Last Monday the Cambodian parliament voted to change the electoral laws so that if the CNRP is disbanded their seats are not subject to by-elections but instead will be redistributed to five minor parties. Last month I met with the former opposition leader, Mr Sam Rainsy, and several leaders of the local Cambodian-Australian community. There are now very serious doubts about any prospect of free and fair elections being held when they're due, in mid-2018. This silencing of the voice of the people is of deep concern to the Labor Party. The Cambodian people should be the only ones who have the power to give to any party seats in the Cambodian parliament. It is the Cambodian people's right to decide the party they want to lead them into the future. Labor urges the Australian government to work to ensure free and fair elections in Cambodia, with free political discourse.