ROCHESTER, New York — Political corruption and growing influence from China have thwarted the progress of democracy in Cambodia. The Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2022 was introduced “to promote free and fair elections, democracy, political freedoms, and human rights in Cambodia, and for other purposes.”
S. 3052 was presented to Congress by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill). In reference to the bill, Markey stated “I am pleased the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has passed the Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act to hold Cambodian officials accountable for corruption and abuses that harm the people of Cambodia.” The bill has yet to get its presentation to the House of Representatives.
Paris Peace Agreement
On October 23, 1991, Cambodia and 18 other countries collaborated and signed the Comprehensive Cambodian Peace Agreement (AKA the Paris Peace Agreement). This agreement set into motion a democratic system of governance for Cambodia, including the creation of a new constitution and a fair election system.
This act also provided new measures to protect human rights (including the safe return of refugees and displaced individuals). Since the introduction of the bill, several threats have arisen to the future of human rights and democracy in Cambodia.
Sanctions for Persons Deemed Threats to Democracy
The president of the United States shall create a report that documents people who threaten the stability of democracy in Cambodia. In addition to civilians, government officials and members of the military/security forces shall be a part of the report, according to the bill.
Direct threats to democracy in Cambodia are somewhat varied. Threats can include pressing of unsubstantiated legal charges, unfair legal prosecutions and collective trials for multiple accused. Human rights violations are also threats to democracy in Cambodia.
Also included within this report are those responsible for acts of corruption. Corruption also comes in various forms, including bribery, corruption concerning government contracts or natural resources, the seizure of assets for personal benefit, and transferring of “dirty money” to authorities abroad.
Upon completion of this report, the president shall punish the accused with different forms of sanctions. These sanctions ultimately affect the existing, pending and future visas of the accused. This essentially makes these individuals inadmissible to the United States as well as incapable of gaining entry in the future if not previously granted. Revoking existing visas of the accused is also a part of this process.
People’s Republic of China
Monitoring the actions of the People’s Republic of China is also a result of the Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2022. Therefore, the president shall release a report that covers issues concerning the Chinese presence in Cambodia. This includes tracking the Chinese progress at the Ream Naval Base and Dara Sakor Airport, according to the bill.
New building developments at these locations have led many to believe that China is preparing for an increased military presence within Cambodia. Therefore, the potential benefits of these projects for China shall subsequently go through the analysis.
The effects of the partnership between China and Cambodia on the maintenance of democracy and human rights shall also be studied. This includes those that came as a result of the “Belt and Road initiative.”
The Belt and Road Initiative is a series of development/investment projects that extends from Eastern Asia to Europe. This, among others, includes “railways, energy pipelines, highways and streamlined border crossings,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).
President Xi Jinping started this movement in 2013 and has led to many concerns surrounding China’s growing economic and political impact.
Due to China’s recent activity in Cambodia, the potential actions of the People’s Liberation Army shall also be studied, according to the bill. This report shall address many concrens, including:
- Any potential benefits for the People’s Liberation Army from the aforementioned construction projects.
- Effects of the People’s Liberation Army on United States interests within the region.
- Effects of the People’s Liberation Army on United States allies within the region.
- How the People’s Liberation Army could threaten proper enforcement of the Cambodian Constitution.
- How the People’s Liberation Army could challenge security in the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific Region in general.
The Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act of 2022 provides needed support for a nation that is struggling to maintain democratic values. Should this bill pass Congress it should be enforced and expanded upon in order to honor the contents of the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement as well as restrain the influence of China in the region.
– Max Cole