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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CPP tightens

CPP tightens

CPP tightens

The human rights report released

January 30 harshly criticizes the CPP for manipulating the political

environment in order to prepare for tightening freedom of expression and cutting

back democratic rights after the July 2008 national elections.

“The right to freedom of assembly has

decreased significantly,” the report said. It pointed specifically to

crackdowns on demonstrations that criticized the government.

“We notice that after the government’s

coalition partner weakened and separated, and the CPP, with power in hand, has

already started to restrict freedom of assembly,” said the Adhoc report.

The report cited 32 peaceful

demonstrations in 2007 in which the government intervened.

“Peaceful demonstrations were

barred by the local authorities in different ways,” the report said.

“Only a few of all peaceful

demonstrations over land disputes held in front of the National Assembly, in

public parks or on the streets, escaped a crack down by the authorities.”

The report referred to the

gradual dissolution of the power sharing agreement between the CPP and

Funcinpec over the years beginning with the 1997 coup in which Funcinpec ‘s

co-prime minister was overthrown and Prime Minister Hun Sen began  consolidating his party’s power. Since the

1993 elections, Funcinpec’s losses have deepened, leading to serious divisions

within the party and decreasing popularity among voters, which is a major

source of concern among democracy advocates and elections watchers as the July

elections approach.

 The report said that if the non-CPP parties

such as Funcinpec and SRP, Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) and the Human Rights

Party (HRP) are not able to form an alliance before the elections, then the CPP

will gain more power in the government.

Nhiek Bun Chhay, Secretary

General of Funcinpec, told the Post

on February 4 that he agreed with Adhoc that freedom of expression has been

decreasing over the last two years since former President of Funcinpec, Prince

Norodom Ranariddh, resigned as the head of the National Assembly.

“Even if Funcinpec has not enough

power to encourage a full freedom of expression and democracy, the party has

participated to improve the process since 1993,” Bun Chhay said. 

Son Chhay , XXX of the Sam Rainsy

Party, said that the draft law on peaceful demonstration has already been

submitted to the National Assembly.

He said that the Ministry of

Interior has put together a draft law on demonstrations that is expected to be

debated soon by the National Assembly and be adopted before the July elections.

Son Chhay said that the draft law

limits the number of people who participate in demonstrations to 200. It also

limits the length of demonstrations and places restrictions on locations. The

draft law also says that the leaders of the rally are responsible for any

violence or property damage.

Chea Sim, President of the CPP,

said in a speech on January 7 that the CPP will continue to protect and promote

democracy and respect of human rights in Cambodia.

“The facts show that the

improvement of democracy and human rights in Cambodia is not due to the plain

words or paper report of some elements that deny and reject realities,” Sim said

in the statement.

Son Chhay meanwhile said the government

always uses demonstrations to target opposition activists for arrest. “I think

that the CPP has never been happy with the freedom of expression because it

will affect its power,” Son Chhay said.

“All national institutions will

be absolutely controlled by the CPP and the system to rule the country will go

back to the 1980s (communist system) if the SRP will not will enough seats to

fill in the National Assembly.”

 “I think that there must be a coalition

government after the July elections,” Chhay said. “There is no reason for the

CPP to win more votes from the current 73 seats in the National Assembly while

there is widespread of land grabbing, force for eviction, corruption and many

other injustices in society.”

The report also said that there

were 55 cases of political intimidation against the activists of the non-CPP at

the grass roots level in 2007. That number doubled compared to the 24 cases of

political intimidation in 2006. The majority of cases were threats against

individuals.

The report said that the National

Election Committee (NEC) is responsible for resolving such disputes but it has

not examined any of the 55 cases.

“The result of an investigation

into the cases of political intimidation found that the powerful set up

violence as the way to maintain their power,” the report said.

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