Meeting the Hon. Mr Kem Sokha

May 10, 2017

I had the honour of joining members of the South Australian Cambodian community to celebrate Cambodian new year on 15 April at the popular temple on Burton Road in Paralowie. We were privileged to be joined by the Hon. Mr Kem Sokha, the new opposition leader of Cambodia. Mr Sokha is the President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, the official opposition, and assumed that position after the forced resignation of Mr Sam Rainsy. As a result of a number of changes introduced by the Hun Sen regime to the electoral laws in February this year, sweeping power is given to the regime to dissolve opposition parties on a range of grounds that are recognised around the world in many cases as quite spurious. Mr Sokha, I understand, met with a number of DFAT officials and also organised a number of other events around Australia.

There are 30,000 Australians who were born in Cambodia and many more who are of Cambodian descent. They have a deep interest in the third pillar of the peace accords, in which Australia played such a significant part, being implemented. That is the granting of civil and political freedom to the Cambodian people. On 4 June elections will be held at a local level, and the rest of the world will be watching to ensure that those elections are free and fair. I have written to the Minister for Foreign Affairs to seek advice as to what the Australian government is offering to support those elections on 4 June.