Bill Text (PDF)

Washington (July 14, 2023) – Ahead of Cambodia’s 2023 general election, Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), along with Representatives Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Lori Trahan (MA-03), today reintroduced the Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation that would hold the Cambodian government accountable for abuses and corruption that undermine democracy and human rights as Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen continues to engage in a crackdown against human rights, democratic institutions, and political opposition. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has maintained one-party control of the government in violation of the Cambodian constitution, banned political opposition, engaged in corruption and political persecution, and repressed free speech and independent media. The primary opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party, has been banned and many of its leaders have been persecuted, executed, or jailed, including Khen Sokha, who has been sentenced to 27 years of house arrest.

“Prime Minister Hun Sen and his cronies have continued to undermine democracy and violate human rights,” said Senator Markey. “The United States must send a clear message that we will not waver in our commitment to supporting with the people of Cambodia and their constitutional right to democracy. I thank Senators Durbin and Rubio, and Representatives Smith and Trahan, for joining me in our shared effort to empower the Cambodian people and uphold bedrock principles of democracy across the globe.”

“Cambodian democracy is suffering at the hands of an oppressive ruler and his cronies who are dead set on violating the nation’s constitution, and arresting, threatening, and harassing political opponents and peaceful activists,” said Senator Durbin. “For example, Theary Seng, a Cambodian-American democracy and human rights activist, who escaped Cambodia’s killing fields as a child, was convicted on fabricated charges of treason for peaceful opposition to the ruling regime. The introduction of the bipartisan Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act and its consequential sanctions sends a clear message that the U.S. Senate stands against Prime Minister Hun Sen’s human rights violations and with the people of Cambodia.”

“As dictator Hun Sen continues to violate human rights and undermine Cambodia’s democracy, the U.S. must impose sanctions on corrupt members of the regime,” said Senator Rubio. “Under Hun Sen’s authoritarian grip, Cambodia is being exploited by China’s genocidal regime. This bipartisan and bicameral bill would push for accountability in support of the Cambodian people.” 

“The people of Cambodia—who suffered one of the worst genocides the world has ever seen—continue to be victimized by the despotic regime of Hun Sen. Now the People’s Republic of China seeks to establish a naval and air presence in the country, as part of its neocolonial, hegemonistic drive to dominate Southeast Asia and beyond. Our legislation seeks to counter both despotism within the country and the imperialistic ambitions of Xi Jinping’s China,” said Representative Smith.

“On the eve of Cambodia’s general election, the Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act reaffirms America’s support for free, fair elections and the upholding of democratic values in Cambodia,” said Representative Trahan, Chair of the Congressional Cambodia Caucus. “For years, Prime Minister Sen’s crackdowns on democratic institutions, journalists, and political opponents have moved Cambodia in the wrong direction. I’m proud to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation, which seeks to hold any official accountable for efforts to undermine the fundamental rights of the Cambodian people.”

A copy of the bill text can be found HERE.

Specifically, the Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act would:

  • Apply asset-blocking sanctions on anyone, including senior officials of the Government, military, or security forces of Cambodia, who has been involved in engaging in significant corruption or human rights abuses; 
  • Codify the State Department’s existing visa restrictions for individuals engaged in such activity;
  • Require the U.S. President to transmit to Congress a list of the sanctioned individuals, allowing the President to waive sanctions upon a certification that such waiver is in the national interest of the United States; and,
  • Require the President to submit a report to Congress detailing activities of the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Liberation Army in Cambodia, including through the Belt and Road Initiative, and the impact they have had on the deterioration of democracy and human rights inside Cambodia.

Senator Markey and his colleagues first introduced the legislation as the Cambodia Democracy Act in 2020. Last year, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy, Senator Markey and Senators Rubio and Durbin applauded the unanimous passage of their Cambodia Democracy and Human Rights Act by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In 2018, Senator Markey and then-Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) successfully passedtheir Gardner-Markey Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, legislation that imposes conditions upon U.S. assistance to the Government of Cambodia related to democracy and regional security In 2017, Senators Markey and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and then-Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-03) wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging the Trump administration to persuade Cambodia to release Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Kem Sokha, cease harassment of Cambodia’s main opposition party, and to respect the freedom of the press and the rights of all Cambodians to freely and peacefully assemble, protest, and criticize the government.