US Report Finds Human Rights Still Lacking

Human trafficking, failure to prosecute perpetrators of election-related violence and poor enforcement of the right of association continue to damage Cam­bodia’s fragile human rights situation, according to the most recent US human rights report.

“The government’s human rights record remained poor,” according to the 2002 US State Department report on human rights in Cambodia. “Although there were some improvements in a few areas, serious problems remained.”

One of the most serious problems facing the country is the high level of human trafficking, according to the report. Citing previous reports, the US stated that in 1999 more than 15 percent of sex workers in Cambodia were bet­ween the ages of 9 and 15, and that 78 percent of those young prostitutes were from Vietnam. One-third of the sex workers in the country were under the age of 18, the report said.

“It was widely believed that some law enforcement and other government officials received bribes that facilitated the sex trade and trafficking in persons,” the report said. “There were credible reports that high-ranking government officials or their family members operated, had a stake in, or received protection money from brothels which housed trafficking victims.”

The US also directly blamed the government for the high number of politically related killings and its lack of full prosecution of those individuals during the 2002 commune election process.

“The military forces and police forces were responsible for both political and nonpolitical killings,” the report stated. “Government of­ficials also declared the crimes were not motivated politically be­fore investigations were completed…groups agreed that at least seven [of the 22 killing cases of political activists, candidates or family members] were politically motivated.”

The report also stressed that the government’s record on enforcing the labor law was, at best, inconsistent, stating that at least five labor federations had ties to the CPP. However, “the government has never prosecuted or punished an employer for anti-union activity.”

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