Cambodia Rights Record Still Poor, US Says

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.


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