US Rights Group Voices Concern on Arrests

Human Rights Watch expres­sed concern that the government could use the attack on government offices two weeks ago as a pretext to move against political opponents, the group said in a statement issued Wednesday. 

The New York-based rights group noted that since the attack on Nov 24 that left as many as eight dead, more than 200 people have been arrested, most without the legally required warrant.

Human Rights Watch also said many of those arrested or de­tained are affiliated with the Funcinpec or Sam Rainsy parties.

The government blames the attack on the US-based Cambo­dian Freedom Fighters, and those who have been arrested are accused of being members of the anti-government group.

More than 40 people have been charged with terrorism and membership in an illegal armed force, while others have been released after questioning.

“The Cambodian government has a right to address threats to its security in accordance with the law, but the danger here is that the Nov 24 incident may become a pretext for the arrest and harassment of opposition figures,” said Mike Hendrzejczyk, Washington director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

Khieu Kanharith, a government spokesman, said the arrests are based on evidence, and add­ed that Prime Minister Hun Sen knows from experience to avoid an appearance of instability in Cambodia. “We know how hard it was to rebuild after the [factional] fighting in 1997,” Khieu Kanharith said. “We don’t want to lose inves­tors again.”

 

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