Two hundred politically motivated arrests have been made this year by state security forces, according to a local rights group.
Chan Soveth, senior investigator at Adhoc, said yesterday that so far in 2014 at least 200 activists and monks were detained or charged with an offence in what he called an attack on freedom of expression.
The detentions included 109 land rights activists, 34 of whom were jailed for varying periods of time; 62 factory workers and trade union activists, 41 of whom were jailed and later released on bail; and 26 opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party members.
Three monks were also recently arrested and remain in prison, he added.
“When the political situation is heated, land activists or opposition members are routinely arrested when they join protests with land dispute victims,” he said. “Their arrests and convictions are intended to apply political pressure, because the charges are not based on the law.”
Suon Bunsak, secretary general of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee, said human rights in Cambodia had taken a step backwards.
“The government’s moves affect the future of human rights in a terrible way,” he said. “Because the implementation of laws is unequal, impunity prevails in the Kingdom.”
Koul Panha, director of election monitor COMFREL, said in many of the cases there was no legal basis for the arrests or charges.
“For example, in the case of [CNRP member] Meach Sovannara . . . The court should not arrest him at all.”
Independent Monks Network member Keo Somaly decried the recent treatment of dissenting monks by the authorities.
“We see the authorities break the law, arrest monks forcefully and defrock them, beat them and throw monks into jail. But I am not terrified of the threats,” he said.
UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Surya Subedi said in a statement yesterday that it saddened him “to see the courts being used again and again as a tool of the executive”.