CONSTITUENCY STATEMENTS; Cambodia: Prime Minister Hun Sen

March 01, 2018

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (10:18): I lend my voice against the latest threats made by the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, ahead of his visit to Australia in March for the ASEAN summit. With the upcoming national elections in Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen has launched a broad crackdown against critical or independent voices. This includes the jailing of the opposition leader, Kem Sokha, the dissolution of the main opposition party and the closure of media outlets and NGOs that have the temerity to criticise government policies. If this weren't concerning enough, Hun Sen has now taken his crackdown a step further, intimidating Australians who engage in any type of peaceful protest against his autocratic rule. I'm appalled by Hun Sen's abhorrent and despicable threats of violence. It's not appropriate for any national leader to come to this country and say things like: 'I will have you followed home and beaten.' As Australians, we do not tolerate this type of behaviour. I don't know about those opposite, but I'm very proud of Australia's long history of political expression. It is one of the most fundamental rights that underpins our democracy and any genuine democracy around the world.

These threats have rightly caused outrage amongst Cambodian Australians in my community. Many feel intimidated, given Hun Sen's former connection with the Khmer Rouge and his unscrupulous reputation for following through on his threats. Australians must take an active role as part of a concerned community, otherwise we will be condemned as bystanders to a rather less than subtle re-emergence of a one-party state and the trampling of human rights. It is imperative, given Australia is a major donor to Cambodia and as such has a genuine interest in the Cambodian people and the health of their democracy. I say to the Cambodian Australians in my community and around the country that you have every right to engage in peaceful protest in Australia. This is a universal human right protected by our laws, and one that Labor prides itself in. The Labor Party stands with the Cambodian Australian community and condemns Hun Sen's threats in the strongest possible terms. Elaine Pearson, Australia Director at Human Rights Watch, called on the Turnbull government:

… to draw a line in the sand and make it crystal clear that … on Australian soil … the government does not tolerate harassing or intimidating protesters.

Democracy is far too precious to have it ignored.