PHNOM PENH: The National Assembly of Cambodia expressed disappointment in the European Parliament’s request to release opposition leader Kem Sokha and to guarantee the upcoming election in July will be free and fair.
The National Assembly issued a statement on the night of 17 March 2023, a day after the European Parliament issued a resolution requesting the release of Kem Sokha, who has been found guilty of conspiring with foreign powers to overthrow a legitimate government.
The National Assembly considered the request made on 16 March as the European Parliament's disregard for the independence and sovereignty of the Kingdom of Cambodia, and that its content seriously violates the sovereign rights of the state, which is a member of the United Nations.
The National Assembly shares the same position as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emphasizing that "a crime is a crime and cannot be legitimized by any other cause."
It went on to state, “We categorically reject the accusations stated in the request and denounce the works of the leftist groups of the European Parliament for their political abuse and interference into the internal affairs of Cambodia which they see as a smaller and weaker state with total disregard to the values of democracy, justice and the rule of law, to which Cambodia has strictly adhered.”
The National Assembly noted, "The European Parliament, especially extremist politicians, have been obtrusive in taking foreign matters into their own politics, which sacrifices Cambodia’s peace, stability, social harmony and socio-economic progress."
That said, Cambodia remains grateful to the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European people for supporting Cambodia's development, especially in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and its post-economic recovery.
The National Assembly stated “We value the friendship and cooperation between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the European Union. It has strengthened the comprehensive and strategic partnership built on the pillars of equal partnership and equal sovereignty between ASEAN and Europe, We continue to promote multilateralism and the rule of law as reflected in the positive outcomes of the Eleventh Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP-11) in 2021 and the dialogue between the European Parliament and the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) held during the 43rd General Assembly in Phnom Penh in 2022.”
The National Assembly urged European Parliamentarians from all sides to make efforts to promote a sincere, open and inclusive dialogue with Cambodia based on mutual respect, trust, and understanding while maintaining peace, coexistence, and mutual prosperity.
Kem Sokha was sentenced to 27 years in prison by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on 3 March 2023. He was also permanently banned from politics for conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow a legitimate government.
It was recently decided, however, that Kem Sokha will remain under house arrest instead of being sent to prison. He will not be allowed to see anyone but family without the permission of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.