A slew of high-profile killings, political bullying and unchecked riots in the capital together made last year the most violent in Cambodia since 1998, a new report says.
The human rights group Adhoc says 2003 was marked by setbacks to personal liberties and an upsurge in violence in a scathing annual report released this month.
In all, “2003 was the most violent year since the 1998 national election period,” the report states.
Civil liberties also were diminished, with the Phnom Penh municipality banning rallies to pre-empt the large demonstrations and police crackdowns that followed the 1998 elections.
“This restriction greatly affected the basic freedoms of Cambodian people,” the report added.
Om Yentieng, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen and head of the government’s human rights commission, said he had not seen the report and could not comment.
The cover of the report shows pictures of the corpses of Om Radsady, Chuor Chetharith and Mao Vuthy. Om Radsady, a senior Funcinpec adviser, was shot dead in March; pro-Funcinpec radio journalist Chuor Chetharith was killed in October; and Mao Vuthy was fatally shot by police in June during a garment workers’ protest.
The report also cites the killings of Municipal Court Judge Sok Sethamony in April and monk Sam Bunthoeun in February, the shooting of singer Touch Srey Nich in October, and attacks on 27 other political party activists in 2003.
“Impunity continued to be a problem, with high-ranking officials and the rich and powerful still being perceived as untouchable,” the report states.
In addition, the report criticizes a lack of progress in judicial reform and irresponsible spending by the government, determining that health, education and other social expenses accounted for only a quarter of government spending.
It also notes a harsh political climate throughout the campaigning and post-election periods.
“Political discrimination was more severe than in previous years…. Voter intimidation also occurred on a wide scale…even direct violence against those not supporting a particular party,” it states.