Human rights group Amnesty International slammed Cambodia in its annual report for failing to protect basic human rights, pointing to issues ranging from forced evictions to the country’s troubled judicial system.
In the Cambodian section of its report, which was released Thursday, Amnesty also criticized the government for failing to pass the long-promised anti-corruption law and a failure to hand out justice for murdered journalists.
“Impunity, inadequate rule of law and serious shortcomings in the court system continued to cause a systemic lack of protection for human rights,” the report said.
Forced evictions topped the list of human rights complaints for Cambodia; Amnesty claims that 27 forced evictions, affecting a total of 23,000 were reported across the country last year. In April, local housing rights NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut estimated that, at the very least, 120,000 Phnom Penh residents have been displaced since 1990.
The Amnesty report also expressed concern about the killing of Moneaksekar Khmer newspaper journalist Khim Sambor and his 21-year-old son last year. “Nine journalists have been killed since 1994—to date, no one has been brought to justice,” it read.
Also of concern for the international group was the arrest and detainment without trial of sex workers, homeless people and drug users in the capital. In the days leading up to last week’s Asean-European Union Ministerial Meeting, officials in Phnom Penh admitted to rounding up undesirables in an effort to clean up the city. Homeless people were sent to Prey Speu social affairs center in Dangkao district, a facility that has been criticized for alleged sexual and physical abuse of inmates.
Legal delays, including the long postponements in passing both anticorruption legislation, which first reached the National Assembly back in 1994, and a new criminal code, were also mentioned in the Amnesty report.
Opposition SRP lawmaker Mu Sochua described the Amnesty report as “very accurate,” but added that it points to a troubling trend for human rights.
“All of these are signs that only a report is not enough; only statements are not enough,” she said Sunday. “I think the message is that the situation with Cambodia is deteriorating because of the lack of political commitment.”
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan declined to comment on the report. “I know nothing about Amnesty,” he said.
Government spokesman and Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said he was too busy to comment and both Senior Minister Om Yentieng, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, and Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Mann Chhoeun could not be reached for comment Sunday.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)