H. Res. 728, Supporting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Cambodia

H.Res. 728

Supporting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Cambodia

Sponsor
Rep. Alan Lowenthal

Date
September 12, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Monday, September 12, 2016, the House will consider H.Res.728, Supporting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Cambodia, under suspension of the rules. The resolution was introduced on May 12, 2016 by Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) and was referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, which ordered the resolution reported with an amendment on July 14, 2016, by voice vote.

 

Bill Summary

H. Res. 728 is resolved that the House of Representatives:

  • reaffirms the commitment of the United States that encourages democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Cambodia;
  • condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia and urges the cessation of any continuing human rights violations;
  • urges the Cambodian Government to respect freedom of the press and the civil liberties of its citizens to freely gather, protest, and speak out against the government;
  • supports electoral reform efforts in Cambodia in addition to free and fair elections in 2018 that are subject to monitoring by international observers
  • affirms that improvements in regard to human rights and democracy will be a significant factor in improving both diplomatic and economic ties between the United States and Cambodia; and
  • urges for Prime Minister Hun Sen and the Cambodian People’s Party to—
    • stop all persecution and intimidation tactics targeted against Cambodia’s opposition;
    • discontinue all politically motivated accusations against opposition lawmakers;
    • permit opposition leaders to return to Cambodia and participate in the political process without obstruction;
    • reform the country’s criminal defamation law and sign into law significant protections that allow parliamentarians and citizens to freely engage in open debate; and
    • promote an environment where democracy can ultimately succeed and prosper.

Background

Despite continued U.S. concerns regarding governmental abuses of power and an abundance of human rights violations, the United States and the Kingdom of Cambodia have attempted to bolster bilateral relations for several years. The main areas of U.S. concern include providing development assistance, eliminating traces of political corruption, promoting democracy and human rights protections, and supporting victims of Khmer Rouge atrocities.[1]

Officially the longest-serving leader in Southeast Asia, Prime Minister Hun Sen has retained interrupted control in Cambodia since 1985. However, since the Paris Peace Accords in 1991, Cambodia has undertaken a slow, partial, and unsteady transition towards democracy, including the introduction of elections and the establishment of a multiparty government and nominal political power sharing. Recently, after many years of oppressive one-party rule under the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), Cambodia held a general election on July 28, 2013 that boosted the political representation of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).[2]

In spite of this gradual transition and the optimistic results of the 2013 election, a coalition of election monitors have continued to accuse the Government of Cambodia of political misbehavior and unlawful electoral irregularities, including tampering with the integrity of the election process and vote-count as well as the continued oppression, physical abuse, and persecution of opposition protestors between 2014 and 2016.[3] Additionally, the Cambodian Government continually pursues aggressive attempts to oust opposition leaders. On November 16, 2015, the standing committee of the National Assembly arrested, expelled and subsequently revoked the parliamentary immunity of CNRP President Sam Rainsy.[4] Later, on May 26, Cambodian police and security forces also raided CNRP facilities in an attempt to arrest CNRP Vice President and acting leader of the opposition Kem Sokha; he is currently under de facto house arrest and is thus incapable of performing his elected duties.[5]

Citing the Cambodian Government’s recently escalated aggression against the opposition movement and its leaders, the United States now wishes to reaffirm its commitment to promoting democratic reform and the protection of human rights in Cambodia. Looking ahead, the United States and a coalition of election observers will closely monitor the country’s local elections in 2017 and national elections in 2018 in an ongoing effort to ensure electoral transparency and free participation for all political parties in the Kingdom of Cambodia.[6]

“The Cambodian national elections in 2017 and 2018 will be crucial to determining the future of the country as well as its standing in the international community,” according to the bill’s sponsor. “This resolution demonstrates the United States’ support for an environment that respects political opposition, human rights, and the rule of law. All of these are necessary preconditions to holding elections in Cambodia that can be considered free and fair.”[7]

————————
[1] See CRS Report – Cambodia: Background and U.S. Relations in Brief, at 2.
[2] See H.Res.728, at 1-2.
[3] Id, at 2-4.
[4] Id, at 3-4.
[5] Id, at 4-5.
[6] Id, at 5.
[7] See Rep. Lowenthal’s Press Release, May 11, 2016.

Cost

A Congressional Budget Office cost estimate is not available at this time.

Additional Information

For questions about amendments or further information on the bill, contact John Wilson with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-1811.