Repressive Laws Harm Fair Elections: Forum-Asia

The Cambodian government con­tinues to show disregard for hum­­an rights, and is drafting re­pres­sive laws and creating conditions for unfair elections in 2007 and 2008, the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and De­velopment said Monday.

The claims by Forum-Asia, a re­gional umbrella organization of rights groups that in Cambodia in­cludes Adhoc and Licadho, ap­peared in a seven-page statement sub­­mitted to the UN’s newly created Human Rights Council, which be­gan its second session in Geneva Mon­­day.

“Cambodia’s past elections have been marred by intimidation, violence, vote-buying and registration dif­­ficulties and other irregularities, and indications of such problems with the forthcoming commune and national elections are already emerg­ing,” Forum-Asia said.

The Cambodian government has drag­ged its feet in creating laws it has promised in order to strength­en legal institutions and pro­cedures, the statement said. Laws and draft laws to restrict lawmakers’ freedom of speech, to punish adultery, to regulate public as­sembly and to make mili­tary service compulsory are all wor­rying signs, the group said.

“The government has been ac­tive­ly moving forward on a number of oth­er laws which are notable for their repressive provisions,” it add­ed.

The international community needs to take a much firmer line with the government unless it wants to see the situation worsen, Ad­­hoc Director Thun Saray said in the statement.

Forum-Asia said in July that Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling CPP had removed roughly 70 Func­­inpec government officials in a “si­­lent CPP takeover.”

CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap disputed Forum-Asia’s latest claims. “We provide the fullest freedom of ex­­pression ever seen in Asia,” he said. “Freedom is so bountiful here,” he added

Chea Yeap said it was too early to judge the fairness of the 2007 commune council elections and 2008 na­tional elections as they have not yet taken place. He added: “Those who crit­icize things here are ignorant of the real situation and of administrative procedures in Cambodia.”

(Additional reporting by Lor Chandara)


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