‘The next Robert Mugabe’: Calls for Cambodian sanctions intensify ahead of Bishop meeting today
A Labor MP has launched a blistering attack on Cambodian strongman Hun Sen, calling on the Federal Government to slap sanctions on corrupt members of his regime who have assets in Australia.
- The daughter of jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha is meeting with Julie Bishop today
- She will push for Australia to ban Cambodian government officials from entering the country
- Despite being critical of Hun Sen, Ms Bishop has not yet committed to any sanctions
"Cambodia's Government now behaves like a bunch of gangsters and thugs, ruling by fear and taking as much as they can," Victorian MP Julian Hill said.
"If the world does not act now then Hun Sen is set to become the next Robert Mugabe, terrorising Cambodians for the rest of his life."
The outburst came as debate intensifies in Canberra over how Australia should respond toHun Sen's crackdown on political opposition and Cambodia's "sham" election last month.
Mr Hill's electorate of Bruce includes a large contingent of Cambodian Australians, and the MP told Federal Parliament that Australia had to intensify pressure on the regime.
Today Monovithya Kem, who is the daughter of Cambodia's jailed opposition leader, Kem Sokha, will meet with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop in Canberra.
She will press Australia to follow the lead of the United States, and slap visa bans and asset freezes on corrupt Cambodian government figures with links to Australia.
"Cambodian elites mostly come to Australia. It's their number one destination," she said.
"They send their children to school here, they do business here, they send a lot of money here."
"That's why a visa ban or an asset freeze on corrupt officials would have a severe impact. It would make them rethink their actions back home."
'Do you want your children alive or dead?': Hun Sen
The ABC's Four Corners uncovered more than $15 million worth of properties and companies in Australia owned by members of Hun Sen's extended family, and his political allies.
Cambodian community leaders say the full figure is probably much larger. A former ruling party insider also told Al Jazeera that members of Cambodia's ruling elite are involved in money laundering and visa fraud in Australia.
And Federal MPs have been disturbed by revelations that members of the Cambodian community in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra have been monitored and threatened by Hun Sen's supporters in Australia.
Four Corners also revealed that when Hun Sen was in Australia earlier this year he threatened Bou Rachana, the window of slain Cambodian activist Kem Lay, saying "as a mother, do you want your children alive or dead?"
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop ramped up Australia's criticisms of Hun Sen's Government in the wake of the election.
"We have concluded it was not a free and fair election given the government's actions suppressing the opposition, the media and civil society … and we'll be talking with other like-minded nations about what would be an effective response," she said.
But she would not say if Australia would hit regime figures with sanctions, saying only "we have a number of options we are currently considering".
'What influence is Australia having on Cambodia now?'
The Federal Government has hesitated to take that step, fearing Cambodia will respond furiously and cut off most ties with Canberra.
But Ms Kem said it was pointless for Australia to preserve access to the regime if it was unable to change Hun Sen's autocratic behaviour.
"I would ask, what influence is the Australian Government having on the Cambodian Government now? I would say nothing," she said.
"That's why I believe Australia needs to build leverage. It's only then they'd have an impact."
Ms Kem will also meet Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong later today.
Yesterday Senator Wong told Federal Parliament that the Government "must investigate the allegations of illegal activity by members of the Cambodian People's Party in Australia".
She also said Australia should consider "additional measures to support democracy in Cambodia", although she hasn't specified what those steps should be.