Cambodia's National Assembly on July 10 passed a bill which prohibits political parties from being affiliated with convicted criminals. Commentators believe the law is aimed at weakening the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The CNRP's former leader, Sam Rainsy, recently resigned from the party after he was sentenced to two years in prison on defamation charges. As a result of the new law, Rainsy will no longer be able to be affiliated with the CNRP in any manner. The CNRP gained significant political strength in the 2013 Cambodian elections when the party took a total of 55 seats in the National Assembly, leading many to believe the defamation charges against Rainsy were politically motivated.
This is very telling. While Kremlin mouthpiece RT is now bashing the anti-Trump protesters in the US, China Daily is gushing with enthusiasm for them. At first, this seems a little counter-intuitive. In some obvious ways, Trump's victory is good news for Beijing. Trump says he will pull the US out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal on his first day in the White House. (BBC News) On the campaign trail, he blasted the TPP as "a disaster done and pushed by special interests who want to rape our country." (ChinaWorker) Beijing views the TPP as a bid for US dominance in the Asia-Pacific region, and a reaction to China's territorial ambitions and superpower aspirations. Just as the US-backed TPP excludes China, Beijing is pushing a rival Pacific Rim trade initiative, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), that excludes the United States. After the US election results, China's Commerce Ministry announced a new push to conclude negotiations on the RCEP. (Reuters)
Journalist Taing Tri of the local Vealntri newspaper in Cambodia's Kratie province was shot dead Oct. 12 as he attempted to photograph trucks transporting illegal luxury wood near Pum Ksem Kang Krow village. Tri is the 13th journalist to be killed in the line of duty since Cambodia's first democratic elections in 1993, and his death bears a disturbing resemblance to the 2012 murder in Ratanakiri province of Heng Serei Oudom, who was known for his reporting on illegal logging in the region. The Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM) and the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) condemned Tri's murder and called on local authorities to bring the killers to justice "in order to end the cycle of impunity for those who perpetuate violence against journalists in Cambodia." To date, no one has been convicted for the murder of Oudom or any of the other journalists killed in Cambodia over the last 11 years. (IFEX, Oct. 15)
A Cambodian court on May 30 convicted 23 workers and activists for inciting violence during a mass garment workers' strike but suspended their jail sentence, which had caused much controversy and international scrutiny. The ruling reverses the February decision of an appeals court, which refused the release of the workers and activists facing criminal charges. It has been reported that international brands such as H&M, Puma and the Gap have threatened to pull out of Cambodia if efforts are not made to prevent further human rights violations, fearing a "public relations problem." Dave Welsh, a representative of the US-based labor group Solidarity Center, stated in regard to the ruling: "The main thing is there's just an enormous amount of relief—first of all with them, with their families, and with the trade union and human rights community in general—that they are going to be freed."
Four people were killed when Cambodian military police opened fire on garment factory workers marching to demand higher pay in a Phnom Penh industrial zone Jan. 3. Hours later, police dispersed a protest camp that supporters of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) had maintained since mid-December in the city's Freedom Park. The move came as the government announced emergence measures barring public protests by the CNRP, which accuses the Hun Sen government of rigging elections held in July. The ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) accused the CNRP of using the deadly street clash as a "pretext" to suspend talks over the impasse. The Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Huamn Rights LICADHO decired the police violence as "horrific." (AFP, AP, Jan. 4; Reuters, Xinhua, Jan. 3)
A prominent Cambodian radio broadcaster and rights activist was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment on Oct. 1 after being convicted of insurrection and inciting rebellion against the state. Mam Sonando, 71, runs the independent Beehive radio station and has been an outspoken critic of the Cambodian government. He was arrested in July on accusations of being involved in a plot to incite villagers in eastern Kratie to rebel against the Cambodian government in an effort to establish an autonomous region in the province. The court held that Sonando had been instrumental in inciting villagers in May to form their own state in the eastern province. An additional 13 people were convicted on similar indictments. Rights groups have denounced the charges and Sonando's supporters say he is being persecuted for criticizing the government. Several hundred people assembled outside the court in support of the rights activist as his sentence was being handed down. The Phnom Penh court also fined Sonando 10 million riel ($2,500). His wife has indicated that he plans to appeal the sentence.
China's move to set up a military garrison at Sansha on disputed Yongxing Island (also known as Woody Island) in the Xisha chain (claimed by the Philippines as the Paracels), along with creating a city administration for the island which has heretofore had few permanent inhabitants, is escalating tensions in the South China Sea (or, as Manila has it, the West Philippine Sea)—the key theater in Washington's new cold war with Beijing. On Aug. 4, Beijing summoned a senior US diplomat, the embassy's deputy chief of mission Robert Wang, over State Department criticism of the move. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement the day before that the US is "concerned by the increase in tensions in the West Philippine Sea and [we] are monitoring the situation closely."