Downward Spiral on Human Rights in Cambodia, Group Says

Human Rights Watch released an annual report on Monday, accusing the Cambo­dian government of growing ever harsher in 2010.

“The Cambodian government increased its repression of freedoms of expression, assembly and association in 2010, tightening the space for civil society to operate,” it said.

Violations outlined in the report included lawsuits against the political opposition and journalists, escalating land evictions, torture by po­lice, and arbitrary detention of drug users and sex workers.

The government “used the judiciary, new laws and threats of ar­rests or legal action to restrict free speech, jail government critics, disperse workers and farmers protesting peacefully, and silence opposition party members,” it said.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia di­rector at Human Rights Watch, called for the international community to advocate Cambodians’ hu­man rights more forcefully in a statement on Monday. “The Cam­bodian government has used bluster and intimidation to push the UN and donors into silence about abuses,” Mr Robertson said. “Cambodia’s donors need to wake up and realize that the hu­man rights situation is rapidly deteriorating.”

The report noted government threats to expel the UN resident coordinator and UN human rights office director last year.

Phay Siphan, Council of Minis­ters spokesman, said that the re­port did not reflect the situation in Cambodia and denied that rights restrictions had increased in 2010.

“It’s just rhetoric, not the truth,” Mr Siphan said, denying that the law was used to restrict freedoms. “We make the law to protect the people,” he said. “The court’s rule of law and constitution says that the everyone has the right to sue.”

Mak Sambath, deputy chairman of Cambodia’s human rights committee, also rejected the report’s conclusions.

“I completely reject the report,” he said. “Cambodia is a paradise for expression.”

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