Cambodia: Ban calls arrest warrant for opposition leader ‘worrisome development’

Street scene in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Photo: World Bank

17 November 2015 – For the second time in three weeks the United Nations has expressed concern over increasing tensions between Cambodia’s Government and opposition, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today calling the arrest warrant issued against opposition leader Sam Rainsy “worrisome.”

In a statement attributable to his spokesperson, Mr. Ban urged the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party to resume their dialogue and called on all political players to refrain from violence, intimidation and harassment.

“The Secretary-General is following with concern the increasing tensions between the ruling party and the opposition in Cambodia,” the statement said.

“The arrest warrant issued against opposition leader Sam Rainsy on 13 November and earlier incidents against opposition parliamentarians and leaders are worrisome developments,” he added. “A non-threatening environment of democratic dialogue is essential for political stability and a peaceful society.”

On 30 October, the Geneva-based Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) voiced concern over the worsening climate for opposition politicians and activists.

According to OHCHR, 11 opposition activists are serving prison sentences of between seven and 20 years for participating in or leading an “insurrection.” Another opposition Member of Parliament is awaiting trial on charges that include incitement to commit crimes and forging public documents.

“We stress that the right to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression belongs to all individuals, regardless of their political or other opinion,” spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said.

In what appears to be an organized attack, a group of pro-Government protesters in Phnom Penh, the capital, last month verbally and physically assaulted opposition legislators and threatened the safety of the private residence of the National Assembly’s First Vice-President.

Reports suggested that police and other state security forces looked on while the attacks took place. “It is the Government's responsibility to ensure that individuals are not targeted for their political affiliation or for expressing dissenting views,” Ms. Shamdasani said.

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