Self-exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy is lobbying the European Parliament, the EU's lawmaking body, to impose measures on Cambodia in the wake of a concerted government crackdown on dissent and the murder of a prominent government critic last week.
Speaking to VOA's Khmer Service after giving testimony to parliamentarians, Rainsy said that he hoped Europe would follow up on an earlier pledge to link the Southeast Asian country's aid program with improvements in human rights.
While EU lawmakers can vote to levy sanctions against individuals linked to crimes such murder and environmental offenses, he said they are considering freezing finances of those in question.
“The actions would target individuals and some people who were identified as [being] involved with crimes; not only killing of the people, but also illegal logging crimes and suppressing garment workers,” Rainsy said, explaining that lawmakers are already researching which individuals could be held accountable.
“They are considering implementing special actions that have never happened before in order to push the authorities in Cambodia to change and stop suppressing innocent people,” he added.
Rainsy said he had raised the recent killing of prominent government critic Kem Ley with members of the European Parliament, which many in Cambodia believe was a state-sponsored killing.
He went on to say that the European politicians had expressed their desire to see the country hold free and transparent elections in coming years, which he described as the "only way to bring peaceful change and democracy."
“If Cambodia does not organize equal access for all the party leaders, then the election is not fair and it is not acceptable,” he said, referring to outstanding charges against the CNRP’s deputy leader Kem Sokha and a two-year sentence for defamation that drove him into self-imposed exile.
“A government that does not have such an election will not be recognized and will not be legitimate in Cambodia,” Rainsy said. “They [the EU] will make a warning about legitimacy, which is very important as dictators also crave legitimacy.”
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Khmer Service.