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Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Page: 2253

Dr CHALMERS (Rankin) (13:30): My community is home to a large Cambodian population, and I'm honoured to represent them here in this place. They are a peaceful people, they are wonderful contributors to our area and I count many of them as friends. I was proud to stand with 23 of them who drove a bus here to Canberra in December to protest against the denial of basic political rights and freedoms in Cambodia. One of the most basic rights is the right to peacefully protest. The non-violent voicing of dissent is a foundation of decent democracies like ours.

That's why I was so appalled to hear Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's disgraceful, despicable, deplorable threats of violence against those who will voice their concerns when he visits in March. It's not acceptable for a national leader to say things like, 'I will follow you and beat you at home,' and, 'I will go to your houses and seize you.' This is a guy who has cracked down on media and NGOs in his country, dissolved the opposition party and arrested its leaders. I want to say to the Cambodians in my community and, indeed, right around Australia: you have every right to protest peacefully in this country. On your behalf, we condemn Hun Sen's threats in the strongest possible terms and we stand with you in your struggle for the basic political rights that you and your loved ones are being denied.