Cambodia is using coronavirus as an excuse for human rights abuse

Cambodia is not the only country to declare a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the legislation passed last week by Hun Sen’s government – like that in Orban’s Hungary – should be ringing alarm bells for anyone anywhere concerned with the erosion of human rights and democracy.

Passed by a parliament from which opposition members have been excluded, and open-ended in duration with no sunset clause, the new law suppresses freedom of speech and assembly, allows control of technology by any means necessary and imposes draconian penalties, including long jail terms and property confiscation.

Ostensibly designed to save the community from the ravages of the coronavirus, there is already evidence that the new wide-ranging powers of surveillance, media and information suppression, and response to “obstruction”, are being used to crack down on those who dare to question the government’s authority, with arrests, increased surveillance and public attacks on human rights activists.

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