Amnesty International’s annual report on human rights, which was released Wednesday in London, lists a number of Cambodian infractions and fears of government negligence despite noting a relatively stable political climate and the successful hosting of the Asean leaders’ summit in 2002.
Topping the list of criticisms was the charge that Cambodia has not upheld the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, to which it is a party. Police forcibly deported hundreds of ethnic minority refugees fleeing persecution in Vietnam’s Central Highlands, in the face of a UN High Commissioner for Refugees program to resettle the Montagnards, as the minority groups are collectively known.
Three other refugees who sought asylum here—a Vietnamese monk and a Chinese married couple belonging to the Falun Gong spiritual movement —went missing. Amnesty International said they are widely suspected to have been returned secretly to the countries they fled.
The rights group also accused the government of contradicting its ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court through its stubborn negotiations—which the UN temporarily walked away from—on the establishment of a genocide tribunal.
Cambodia is still rife with political violence and harassment, Amnesty International charged. Seventeen candidates, members of either Funcinpec or the Sam Rainsy Party, were allegedly killed for their political activities, according to the report. A multitude of threats also marred the commune election process in 2002.
Torture was reported throughout the year, the rights group said. It cited a case where five prison escapees were caught and beaten by guards before other inmates. The guards were tried in the first torture case since 1993 and acquitted despite testimony by prisoners who witnessed the alleged brutality.
UN human rights envoy Peter Leuprecht criticized the acquittal. The prisoners who testified were returned to prison, where they justifiably feared violent punishment.
“The promotion and protection of human rights continued to be severely hampered by the lamentable state of the judicial system,” the report concluded.