Report Says Cambodia Still Not Free, Political Rights Absent

Cambodia has again been ranked as “not free” by U.S.-based Freedom House, which released its 41st Freedom in the World index on Friday.

In the ranking, Cambodia is deemed one of 48 nations that are “not free,” placing it in among countries where “basic political rights are absent, and basic civil liberties are widely and systematically denied.”

Freedom House uses a scale from 1 to 7 to determine some specific rights and freedoms, with 7 representing the least free. Matching its place last year, Cambodia’s political and civil rankings were unmoved: Political rights are pegged at 6, while civil liberties stood again at 5.

The organization also considers Cambodia’s Internet to be “partly free,” but its press “not free.”

A country-specific paper explaining the findings is forthcoming, but the report comes after several violent and lethal efforts to suppress citizens’ freedom of speech and right to assembly in Cambodia over the past few months.

Since last year’s Freedom House index was released, Cambodians have been killed, maimed and imprisoned for taking part in, or being bystanders to, demonstrations related to the disputed outcome of the July 28 national election, minimum wage issues and land disputes.

Among its Asean counterparts, Cambodia is one of five countries considered “not free.”

Laos is the least free, with 7 for political rights and 6 for civil liberties. Vietnam scored 7 and 5, respectively, while Brunei and Burma scored 6 and 5 each.

Thailand (4, 4), Indonesia (2, 4), Singapore (4, 4), Malaysia (4, 4) and the Philippines (3, 3) are all considered “partly free.”

Internationally, Cambodia’s “not free” counterparts include Turkmenistan, Syria, North Korea, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Cuba, Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Afghanistan and Russia.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not understand how Freedom House arrived at its conclusion.

“I don’t totally agree with that,” he said. “I have to see how they calculate or formulate the rank of Cambodia compared to the others.”

He said factors that should be considered include “culture, education and participation from the people and responsibility and accountability from each individual. That’s a factor, plus political environment.”

“Tolerance is the most important thing,” he said, adding that Cambodia is free, but people must respect the law.

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