Dear Mr. President,
The Cambodian community in America wishes to draw your attention to
the democratic deficit that exists in our country of origin.
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia,
Professor Surya P. Subedi, in July recommended thorough reform of the
electoral system to allow meaningful national elections to take place
in July 2013. A key recommendation for the reform of the National
Election Committee, which administers elections, to make it a neutral
rather than a partisan organization, has been rejected by the
You are due to visit Cambodia in November as the country holds the
presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2012.
We call on you to cancel this trip unless you receive binding
assurances of electoral reform in line with the U.N. recommendations.
This should include making it possible for Cambodians living abroad to exercise their voting rights, at least in the countries where Cambodia has diplomatic and/or consular representation.
If assurances of democratic elections cannot be obtained, please do not allow an autocratic government to present your visit as an endorsement by the U.S. of human rights abuses and manipulated elections leading to a distortion of the will of the people.
Professor Subedi wrote in July that "If the electoral process is
unable to command the trust and confidence of the electorate, the very foundation of the Cambodian political and constitutional architecture embodied in the Paris Peace Agreements will be shaken and the country may run the risk of a return to violence."
Over the years America has given many Cambodians the chance to achieve a better life. While they have worked to do so, Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has held uninterrupted power since 1985.
Please, Mr. President, use your good offices to allow our compatriots back home the opportunity for self-determination that we, as Americans, now take for granted.