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.”