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)