Rights Group Outlines Cambodia’s Failures

The Cambodian government failed to protect political refugees or establish the rule of law in a series of major human rights problems last year, according to Amnesty International, the UK-based human rights organization.

The organization made a brief report on Cambodia in its report of 2001 human rights issues worldwide, released this week.

The section on Cambodia touches on the flight of Mon­tagnards from Vietnam, the trials of suspected Cambodian Free­dom Fighters, the collapse of the Khmer Rouge tribunal talks and the intimidation of political candidates in the run-up to the Feb­ruary commune council elections.

The report does not provide many examples of rights abuses in Cambodia to illustrate the problems it describes, though it broadly condemns the inability of the government to administer the rule of law.

Speaking of the first Cam­bodian Freedom Fighters trial nearly one year ago, the report said the majority of the suspects was “sentenced to long prison terms, including life imprisonment, which is not a codified punishment under Cambodian law.”

A government spokesman said he has not seen the report yet, and would not want to directly challenge it.

“We don’t have any reaction to the human rights report,” said Om Yentieng, chairman of the government’s Committee on Human Rights. “We don’t want to have any reaction against the human rights reports. At least they have a good heart to help Cambodia.”

More detailed reports on 2001 human rights events in Cam­bodia were issued by Human Rights Watch in December and Adhoc in February.

The Amnesty International report faults the government for the collapse of the tribunal negotiations, saying the UN was ig­nored when it asked for assurances the tribunal would follow in­ter­na­tionally recognized legal norms.

“The [Cambodians’] revised version of the [tribunal] law did not address the majority of these concerns…,” the report stated.

The report lists the death of Meas Soy, a Funcinpec candidate, as an example of political violence in the days before the Feb 3 commune council elections, but makes only passing reference to other cases, including that of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia observer who was found bound, stabbed and shot in his house on election day.

Attempts to reach a spokesperson Wednes­day were not successful. The organization does not maintain an office in Cam­bodia.


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