Lowell City Council Passes Motion Backing Effort to Support Democracy in Cambodia
LOWELL -- Many city residents have relatives and friends in Cambodia -- where people are being silenced, jailed and beaten.
It’s where the major opposition political party has been dissolved, and where an oppressive regime continues to spread its power.
That’s only some of what you heard from residents and councilors at Tuesday’s Lowell City Council meeting, during which the city sent a message to the people of Cambodia.
“We support you,” City Councilor Vesna Nuon said to the residents of his homeland. “We have your back.”
The City Council voted unanimously to support the Cambodian Democracy Act of 2018 recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, which condemns last month’s Cambodian elections.
Many had protested the “sham” election, calling for a boycott of the election because Prime Minister Hun Sen and the government has dissolved the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), imprisoned and exiled its leaders, and shut down independent media across the country.
The City Council also voted for the city to send a letter of support to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Sen. Edward Markey for passage of the Senate’s Cambodian Accountability & Return On Investment Act.
The councilors stressed the importance of restoring the civil and political rights of CNRP, media and civil society organizations, and the release of political prisoners.
“It’s a travesty what’s going on there,” said Councilor Rodney Elliott. “You can’t disband a political party and say democracy is taking place.”
Lowell has the second largest population of Cambodians in the country and the largest population of Cambodians on the East Coast.
“We stand with the Cambodian community on this,” said Councilor Edward Kennedy. “We should have extra standing with the U.S. Senate.”
In 2016, the City Council voted to denounce a visit from Hun Manet -- Hun Sen’s son.
The council back then voted to not have officials meet with him at City Hall, and to reject a gift from the Cambodian government. Hundreds of the city’s estimated 30,000 Cambodian-Americans filled City Hall to urge councilors to not officially recognize Manet’s visit.
On Tuesday, dozens of Cambodian-Americans filled the City Council Chamber, applauding the council for their vote.
Many spoke in favor of Nuon’s motion at the meeting condemning the recent Cambodian election, and urging restoration of the opposition party that was dissolved last year.
Sam Meas, a candidate for state representative, said democracy in Cambodia has been “deteriorating at a fast downward spiral.”
“We cannot ignore the fact that many of our people are dying for democracy,” added Rithy Uong, a former city councilor and also a candidate for state representative. “Human rights are being oppressed.”
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.