Citing politically motivated killings, violent suppressions of public demonstrations and numerous cases of illegal detentions, the US State Department concluded that Cambodia’s human rights record “remained poor, and the Government continued to commit abuses” in 2004.
In its “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices—2004” released Feb 28 and obtained Thursday, the State Department also noted frequent unresolved land disputes, a weak and corrupt judiciary, and physical abuse of prisoners at the hands of military and police officials.
In a year when anti-trafficking efforts were marred by the Afesip scandal, in which 83 women and girls were allegedly kidnapped from the NGO’s shelter, “[d]omestic and cross-border trafficking in women and children, including for the purpose of prostitution, was a serious problem,” the report stated.
The US State Department said at least four politically motivated killings were reported in 2004, including the Jan 22 shooting of union leader Chea Vichea and the May 7 killing of factory-level union leader Ros Sovannareth.
“Military and police personnel were responsible for both political and nonpolitical killings,” it reported, “however there was no credible evidence that these killings were officially sanctioned.”
Though the Constitution guarantees the freedom of peaceful assembly, the State Department added, “the Government did not respect this right in practice.”
In its section on arbitrary arrest and detentions, the report noted several cases in which people were arrested without warrant and at least 66 instances of people illegally detained by police.
It also mentioned the case of the four Jemaah Islamiyah suspects, three of whom were convicted of having links to the militant group.
Though arrested in May 2003 based on information provided by the US government, the four suspects were not tried until December 2004, long past the legal six-month pre-trial detention period.
“They were never granted a preliminary hearing,” the State Department said in its report.
Despite local Cham Muslims’ denouncement of the trial as unfair and the evidence presented as dubious, the US Embassy applauded the convictions of the terror suspects.
In addition to the government, the US State Department also pointed to the Sam Rainsy Party and Funcinpec for fueling discrimination against ethnic Vietnamese.
“Preceding the July 2003 National Assembly elections, the SRP, FUNCINPEC, and a number of…parties exploited anti-Vietnamese sentiment,” it stated.
Repeated calls to Om Yentieng, head of the government’s Human Rights Committee, and government spokesman Khieu Kan-harith went unanswered Thurs-day.