Cambodian authorities are using the Covid-19 pandemic to carry out arbitrary arrests of opposition supporters and government critics, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities have arrested at least 30 people, including 12 linked to the dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), on charges of spreading “fake news” and other offenses since the global outbreak of the pandemic.
The Cambodian government should immediately and unconditionally drop the charges against all those accused of crimes in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and association. These arrests come in the context of a renewed government crackdown on civil and political rights. Under the pretext of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic, the government is pushing through a state of emergency law that allows the government to further repress the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen is busy tightening his grip on power and throwing political opposition figures and critics in jail while the world is distracted by Covid-19,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director. “Peaceful political activity and criticizing the government are not crimes, including during a pandemic. The authorities should drop the bogus charges and release those detained.”