Interview: 'Democracy is Now Dead. We Are Finding Ways to Make it Alive Again'

Mu Sochua, vice president of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party, escaped her country in early October 2017 ahead of warnings she would be arrested for conspiring with jailed party leader Kem Sokha to overthrow the Cambodian government. She spoke from exile to Vuthy Huot of RFA’s Khmer Service about the Hun Sen government’s pressure on CNRP members and her efforts to focus international attention on Cambodia’s political crisis.

RFA: Have you declared your assets as required by the Anti-Corruption Unit after the CNRP officials are banned from politics?

Mu Sochua: It is unacceptable that laws are used to harass us. The laws are used as tools for the ruling elites to remain in power longer and restrict our freedom and rights. It’s not a big deal whether we declare our assets. The big deal is the life of democracy in our country. We are not afraid to lose our assets as long as we do not lose our democracy. To revive our democracy, Kem Sokha must be released immediately and unconditionally and there must be free and fair elections.

RFA: Are you not afraid that you will be punished for failing to declare your assets?

Mu Sochua: No, I’m not. What I fear the most is when our country has become a victim of the ruling elites who are undermining our democracy. We need to rescue our nation and democracy.

RFA: CNRP officials are lobbying the international community to put pressure on Hun Sen’s government. However, CPP officials say that the CNRP has failed to convince buyers to stop buying goods from Cambodia. What is your reaction to that?

Mu Sochua: I wish to specify that we are not inciting the international community to stop buying clothes or other goods from Cambodia. Big buyers are actually very mindful of their moral obligation. They only buy products from a country that respects human rights and democracy. What we are lobbying the international community for is to restore human rights and democracy in Cambodia.

RFA: Since the CNRP is dissolved, party officials have conducted protests and delivered petitions to foreign governments. How effective have these efforts been so far?

Mu Sochua:  Democracy is now dead. We are finding ways to make it alive again. Our fight to get international attention is working. The international community including the US and EU have already imposed some forms of sanctions against the Hun Sen government. I strongly encourage Cambodians everywhere to continue to stay engaged in politics and stage peaceful protests to pressure for the restoration of democracy and rule of law.

RFA: What do you think about Hun Sen’s recent move to meet factory workers at least twice a week?

Mu Sochua: It is good that he does that. It is exactly what the CNRP has been doing. For he follows what we do now, I would like him to also follow our call for him to allow Cambodians to also enjoy their freedom, human rights and democracy fully. May I challenge Hun Sen to fight like a man. I want to challenge Hun Sen to be brave enough to allow for a free and fair election in which political parties compete for votes from the people at the polling stations.

RFA: Hun Sen accuses the president of the CNRP of treason. He also accuses some NGOs of receiving assistance from foreign governments. In the meantime, Hun Sen has received assistance from foreign governments like China. What do you think about this?

Mu Sochua: We are very concerned with China’s influence in Cambodian politics. China has exploited our natural resources on a large scale. China is a one-party state. It is a communist country. It is very sad that Hun Sen has let go of democracy and chose communism. It is very sad that he has labeled us as traitors. However, I strongly believe that Cambodians are not fooled by Hun Sen. I really respect our people who still strongly believe in the CNRP, which is the only hope for a democratic change.

Translated by Nareth Muong.

Source: RFA – Interview: 'Democracy is Now Dead. We Are Finding Ways to Make it Alive Again'