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Engel Remarks in Support of Democracy in Cambodia

ENGEL REMARKS IN SUPPORT OF DEMOCRACY IN CAMBODIA

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WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives supporting a resolution calling for the advancement of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law in Cambodia (H.Res. 728):

“Mr. Speaker, I also rise in support of this resolution and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“Let me first of all thank Mr. Lowenthal, a valued member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, for his hard work on this measure.  And let me just thank the speakers, the Chairman of the Committee as well, for always cooperating with us on bipartisan resolutions, and things that are for the good of the country. And that’s the way we try to conduct ourselves here.

“Mr. Speaker, for the last three decades, the people of Cambodia have hoped to see their country move toward a freer, more democratic system.  But that progress has been halting and the results are incomplete. 

“Hun Sen, that country’s Prime Minister, has held onto power since 1985, making him currently the longest-serving leader in Southeast Asia.  Though elections are scheduled for 2018, it seems likely that the opposition party will endure the same sort of intimidation and harassment that it has for years.

“This lack of progress and accountability on the part of the Hun Sen government has meant that Cambodia remains one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the region. Cambodia leans on China for imports and economic assistance, and has adopted some of China’s most draconian laws and practices as well.

“Despite these obstacles, the people of Cambodia remain remarkably resilient and entrepreneurial.  For years, the United States has provided development assistance to improve Cambodian human-rights protections; bolster civil society; and improve health, education, and opportunity.

“These investments are paying dividends in the form of a new generation of bright, thoughtful Cambodian leaders who seek more for themselves and their fellow-citizens.  These young leaders along with many reformers and activists deserve to have their voices heard.

“You know, it’s, it’s especially poignant.  I’ve been to Cambodia a few times and when you think of the terrible events, the killings there decades ago, practically genocide there, it is just intolerable and unthinkable and unacceptable that Cambodia would still have these difficulties with all the things that the people of Cambodia have suffered. 

“So this resolution calls on the government of Cambodia to push ahead with real and meaningful reform that will advance democracy.  It calls for changes to the electoral system that would allow for truly free and fair elections.  It calls on the Hun Sen government to act now so that the 2018 elections are transparent and credible.  And it calls for the end of politically motivated harassment and violence against the people of Cambodia.

“Mr. Speaker, the people of Cambodia want and deserve real democracy for their country.  They want to chart the course for their own future and live the lives they choose for themselves.  This measure sends a strong message that the United States stands with them and want to see them realize their democratic aspirations.

“So I’m glad to support this measure and I reserve the balance of my time.”