Amnesty Paints Bleak Picture of Cambodian Human Rights

Last year saw a rise in the use of “excessive force” by authorities against demonstrators and a decline in freedom of expression and association in Cambodia, Amnesty International said in its latest global report, released Wednesday.

The report, which looks at the human rights situations of 159 countries and territories between January and December 2012, also named forced evictions, land grabbing, and a non-independent judiciary as some of the key problems affecting Cambodia.

“Respect for freedom of expression, association and assembly deteriorated,” Amnesty said in its two-page Cambodia chapter. “The authorities increasingly used ex­cessive force against peaceful protesters. Human rights defenders faced threats, harassment, legal action and violence.

“Forced evictions, land disputes and land grabbing continued to affect thousands of people. Impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses and a non-independent judiciary remained major problems, with flawed or no investigations into killings and shootings. Judicial investigations at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia stalled as allegations of government interference persisted,” it continues.

Examples given by the international human rights watchdog of excessive use of force included the January 2012 shooting by security guards of four people at the TTY rubber concession in Kratie province, the shooting of three female garment workers in February in Svay Rieng province, and the death of a 14-year-old girl shot by soldiers in Kratie prov­ince in May during a mass forced eviction.

“No adequate investigation was carried out into any of these incidents,” Amnesty said. “Impunity for attacks against human rights defenders persisted,” it added.

Amnesty also decried the decision by the Koh Kong Provincial Court to drop the investigation into the murder of environmental activist Chut Wutty, who was shot dead in Koh Kong in April 2012, as well as the arrest and imprisonment of Boeng Kak anti-eviction activists—such as Yorm Bopha—and radio station owner Mam Sonando last year.

“The crisis over land continued, with forced evictions, land disputes and land-grabbing affecting thousands of people and resulting in a rise in protests,” according to the report.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the issues raised were “out of date,” and added that “the government has tried to improve the situation already.”

“The problems have been solved gradually on a range of issues,” he continued. “The majority still enjoy a good mood in Cambodia.”

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