Cambodia yesterday accused foreign governments of interfering in its internal politics after the US voiced strong concern at the expulsion of opposition lawmakers from parliament before elections next month.
All 28 members of parliament from the only two opposition parties were last week stripped of their salaries and status as lawmakers by a committee made up of ruling party members.
The opposition lawmakers were accused of violating parliament’s internal rules by leaving their parties to create a new political force to challenge Prime Minister Hun Sen’s nearly three decades in power in July 28 elections.
The US, in a statement also released by the US embassy in Phnom Penh, said Saturday that it was “deeply concerned” by the move, which “starkly contradicts the spirit of a healthy democratic process”.
Foreign Minister Hor Namhong expressed his “disappointment” during a meeting with Australia’s ambassador yesterday at recent comments by some foreign diplomats about the polls, according to ministry spokesman Koy Kuong. He said Hor Namhong considered the remarks “acts of interference in Cambodia’s internal affairs by foreign embassies”.
Officials at the parliament - which is in recess before the polls - defended the decision to strip the opposition MPs of their status, saying the move was in accordance with its internal rules.
Lawmaker Chheang Von, chairman of parliament’s foreign affairs commission, criticised the US comments as “unacceptable”.
“Cambodia is a sovereign country, and the parliament was elected by the people... the US orders the Cambodian parliament to do this or that. It is unacceptable,” he said.
Hun Sen has led the country since 1985 and his government is regularly accused of suppressing political freedoms and mistreating activists.
His main opponent Sam Rainsy is barred from running in next month’s election due to convictions which he contends are politically motivated.
The opposition accused the ruling party Sunday of orchestrating a mass protest against one of its leaders who allegedly described a notorious Khmer Rouge prison as a Vietnamese invention.
The opposition said his remarks were doctored.