Follow-Up / Detailed Coverage
Cong. Lowenthal Says (1) He Didn't Discuss Cambodia Trip With Mayor Garcia Beforehand; (2) He Supports Current Pending Bill That Targets Regime's Bad Actors But Doesn't Ban Trade; And (3) Plans In Coming Weeks To Introduce Bicameral/Bipartisan "Cambodia Trade Act" Requiring Pres. Trump To Examine If Cambodia's Current Preferential Trade Status Is Justified In View Of Regime's Ongoing Oppressive Acts
|(Feb 15, 2019, 10:05 a.m.) -- As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (whose city is home to America's largest population of Cambodian refugees) recently traveled with a Port of LB delegation to Cambodia to promote trade, signed a document (whose text didn't come to the LB's policy-setting City Council beforehand) reciting that the City of LB would facilitate various "sister city" type contacts but didn't raise issues of democracy or human rights.
At the same time, a bill now pending in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 526) -- co-sponsored by Cong. Alan Lowenthal (D, LB-west OC) -- recites the following regarding Cambodia's regime as the basis for applying certain sanctions (detailed below)
[H.R. 526 text] Congress finds the following:
Mayor Garcia's actions and those of the LB's Port have sparked reactions ranging from disbelief to dismay among some in LB's now-politically rising Cambodian-American community. With the House now in Dem majority control, LBREPORT.com followed-up with related questions to Congressman Lowenthal, who responded with emailed responses (Feb. 14) below.
[Scroll down for further.]
LBREPORT.com will report the text of Cong. Lowenthal's forthcoming legislation when introduced. In the meantime, H.R. 526 currently pending in the House would direct the President to apply certain sanctions to "each senior official of the government, military, or security forces of Cambodia that the President determines has directly and substantially undermined democracy in Cambodia" or have "committed or directed serious human rights violations associated with undermining democracy in Cambodia" and "entities owned or controlled by senior officials of the government, military, or security forces of Cambodia." H.R. 526's sanctions would "block and prohibit all transactions in property and interests in property" of those persons of such property and interests that are in the U.S., come within the U.S. or are within the possession or control of a U.S. person and direct the Secretary of State to continue U.S. declared policy of Dec. 6, 2017 and restrict entry into the U.S. "of persons involved in undermining democracy in Cambodia.
A nearly identical bill (H.R. 5754), also co-sponsored by Cong. Lowenthal, passed the 2018 Repub majority House but didn't advance in the Repub majority Senate.
During his visit to Cambodia, Mayor Garcia signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" in Phnom-Penh on January 28, 2019 which recites in pertinent part that both cities "are ready to conduct friendly exchanges and cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual benefits" in fields such as "economics, trade, culture, education, agriculture, tourism, health and personnel, science and technology so as to promote common development for shared prosperity." It also states that the two cities "agree to facilitate the exchanges of visits of their respective representatives." To view the MOU in full, click here.
[LBREPORT.com publisher's comment: Under LB's voter-enacted City Charter, LB's Mayor doesn't have independent policy setting authority or executive level authority to bind the City to contractual agreements. LB city policy is decided by the City Council which didn't publicly discuss beforehand what Mayor Garcia did and hasn't voted to approve it now.]
The Cambodian regime gave considerable media attention to what LB's Mayor said and LB's Port officials did:
In a speech carried on Cambodian state television, Cambodia's King, Norodom Sihamoni, said "In the history of our country, our nation has never before had the honor of having a formal designation of Cambodia Town, culture, and business district in a foreign country...We're grateful to you Mr. Mayor and to you, Mr. chairman [of Cambodia Town] for your very loyal gesture."
As previously reported (first again by LBREPORT.com), some in LB's politically rising Cambodian-American community have voiced concerns that the actions of the Mayor and Port may have sent the wrong message to Cambodia's repressive regime. On Feb. 11, 2019, they held a community roundtable meeting (that drew roughly 15 people on short notice) and was conducted by Tippana Tith, who invited each of the attendees to voice his/her views (calling it the American way to proceed.) LBREPORT.com, present at the meeting, heard via summarized translation from Khmer various degrees of puzzlement, questions, concerns. dismay and displeasure about what took place. Why did the Mayor and Port do this, several attendees wanted to know. How is what the Port and Mayor did consistent with what Congressman Lowenthal has been saying and doing, others asked? Some said the Mayor is doing a good job for the City but didn't understand what's taking place in Cambodia and the nature of its repressive regime. Others speculated that the Mayor did know but that money is more important to the Port and the City. Still others speculated that the Mayor was given bad advice by others in LB's Cambodian-American community.
After everyone was heard, the meeting's attendees agreed that a letter should be sent to Mayor Garcia (text to be composed after the meeting) seeking to meet with him. Depending on the Mayor's response, Mr. Tith indicated the group can decide on its next actions.
Developing. Further to follow on LBREPORT.com.
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