After Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s criticism of media and NGOs this Tuesday, the Cambodian government shut down fifteen radio stations and banished some Western-backed NGOs, including National Democratic Institute (NDI), a US NGO that receives funding from United States government.
Mr Yim Sovann, the Spokesperson for Cambodia National Rescue Party, according to The Phnom Penh Post, said that “some radios have not asked for permission from the ministry. The ministry has to shut them down in order to uphold the law on media.” The Cambodia Daily, an English-language daily, was threatened by Cambodian Government to pay an unaudited tax bill of $6.3 million by September 4, 2017, or else it has to confront closure. The deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson said that “The Cambodian government’s shutdown of independent media outlets and a respected democracy promotion group shows that Hun Sen is intensifying efforts to curb criticism of his rule. Diplomats and donors should put Hun Sen on notice that if he doesn’t reverse course, elections in 2018 won’t be considered credible.” Meanwhile, according to Liz Throssell, the Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, “We have concerns that NDI was closed without due process, and are worried about the overall deterioration of the environment for human rights defenders and civil society in Cambodia.”
The measurement, taken by Cambodian Government, certainly violates human rights, especially the freedom of media and other related political rights. For instance, without complete procedure and clear laws and policy, the whole affair becomes controversial. The reasons behind this sudden step taken by Cambodian Government seem to be clear. The closure of different independent media helps Prime Minister Hun Sen block opposite voices before the 2018 election. On the other hand, the banishment of NDI is a symbol that Hun Sen is trying to side with China to gain more financial support. This ‘smart’ but controversial move may bring a better chance in the political election next year. However, the international community will not stay silent, and the potential effects for the future still need to be explored.
Cambodia is a so-called democratic country, it has been under control of one party, the Cambodian People’s Party, since 1985. Though the second largest party in Cambodia, Cambodia National Rescue Party, also has seats in the National Assembly, it still doesn’t have enough capacity to challenge Cambodian People’s Party. The current Cambodian Government is led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, which is controversial in the international community. It is criticized by different international NGOs for its political oppression and corruption. On the international level, Cambodia usually sides with China, especially in South China Sea conflicts, which gives itself an ‘anti-US’ label.
The closure of independent media and expelling of NDI are ‘anti-human-rights’ political moves by Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian Government. The latent effects in the future are still unclear, due to the different response from the international community.