Victorian MP calls for countries to up pressure on Cambodia

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Email Victorian MP Hong Lim, banned from Cambodia, says world has 'turned their back' on injustices

Updated August 18, 2016 05:39:42

Video: Beverley O'Connor speaks to Cambodian-born Victorian MP Hong Lim (The World)

A Cambodian-born Victorian MP who has been banned from entering Cambodia has called on the signatories to a 1991 peace accord to reignite efforts to bring full democracy to the South-East Asian nation.

Key points:

  • Hong Lim says Cambodians feel like other countries do not care about them
  • He says murder of political activist Kem Ley was a political assassination
  • Lim calls on Australia to stop "legitimising" Cambodian "regime"

Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Asian Engagement Hong Lim was banned from entering Cambodia after calling Prime Minister Hun Sen's Government a "beast" in a radio interview earlier this month.

Mr Lim told the ABC's The World program he stood by his comments and it was time for governments around the world to stop turning a blind eye to injustices in Cambodia.

"The Cambodian community around the world and particularly the people inside the country want to revive the spirit of this Paris Peace Agreement," he said, referring to an accord signed in 1991 to end bloodshed in Cambodia and help build democracy.

"The whole country feels there is an obligation on these 19 countries that were the signatories to come in and make it work, to revive it."

The Agreement was signed by Cambodia and 18 other governments, including Australia, the US and the UK. Mr Lim said not enough pressure being put on Cambodia by these countries.

"They [Cambodians] feel that the whole world has turned their back against them, not concerned about what has happened," he said.

Mr Lim has been particularly vocal about Cambodia's Government following the murder of his friend and political activist Kem Ley last month.

Cambodian political analyst Kem Ley at ABC International's studio in Melbourne Photo: Political activist Kem Ley was shot dead in broad daylight last month. (ABC: Alex Khun)

Kem Ley, a critic of both Hun Sen's Government and the opposition, was shot dead in broad daylight at a petrol station in Phnom Penh.

Many Cambodians believe the killing was a political assassination, despite police arresting a man who later confessed to the crime, and Kem Ley's wife is looking to seek asylum in Australia following the murder.

Mr Lim said it was clear his murder was politically motivated.

"There's no doubt about that, there are all the hallmarks, all the indications," he said.

"This is not the first time [there's been] a political assassination."

Lim hits out at Australia's 'legitimising' of Cambodian Government

Mr Lim said President Hun Sen was even trying to clamp down on overseas dissent, starting with him.

"He's testing the waters, to see the international reaction," he said.

"But I'm encouraged by the support I receive."

Following his banning from Cambodia, Mr Lim said he was now gravely concerned for his relatives still in the country.

"Everything is being monitored and I've been targeted specifically. I know that they're brutal and capable of doing anything. You never know what's going to happen," he said.

Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen (L) shakes hands with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh Photo: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. (AFP: Tang Chhin Sothy)

There have been many allegations of abuses under Hun Sen's 31-year rule, which Human Rights Watch said has relied on "security force violence and politically motivated prosecutions".

Two opposition MPs were hospitalised last year after being attacked outside the National Assembly by a group of pro-government protesters.

Witnesses reportedly recognised the Prime Minister's bodyguards dressed as civilians in the crowd of protesters.

Mr Lim said he did not see "any hope" for Cambodia at the moment, especially following the outcome of the last election in 2013.

Despite concerns over irregularities, the ruling Cambodian People's Party was declared the winner of the election with just under 50 per cent of the vote.

"We know clearly that he [Hun Sen] lost it. [Instead] he rolls out his tanks, he rolls out his military and he said that he won the election," he said.

"In fact the leader of the opposition and his deputy at the time had to escape into the US embassy to be alive because they were after them."

Mr Lim said Australia's cooperation with the Cambodia had legitimised the Government there and led to hatred towards Australians in Cambodia.

Australia offered Cambodia $40 million in aid money in exchange for taking in refugees from Nauru, but only a handful of refugees have chosen to go to Cambodia.

"That is almost like providing international recognition, legitimacy to the regime," Mr Lim said.

"No other country in Asia would stoop that low to do that dirty work for Australia, but Hun Sen would do for $55 million.

"For the first time there were demonstrations against a Western country in Phnom Penh … in front of the Australian embassy twice, that had never happened before."

Topics: world-politics, human, foreign-affairs, cambodia, australia, vic

First posted August 18, 2016 05:35:12

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