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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Int'l body slams government's record on human rights

Int'l body slams government's record on human rights

Int'l body slams government's record on human rights

In vitriolic report, international body says Cambodia's record on human rights is the worst it's been in more than a decade

AN international human rights body has condemned the government for what it called another year of gross human rights violations, saying the Kingdom is now sinking into a condition "much worse" than that of the years after Untac.

According to the Asian Human Rights Commission's annual Human Rights Report for 2008, which evaluates eleven countries in the region, Cambodia's human rights record has taken a turn for the worse following the consolidation of the ruling party's power.

"Hun Sen's ruling party ... has had control over the institutions for parliamentary democracy and for the rule of law and the media since the communist days. It has been able to effectively squeeze out the rival parties [and] marginalise the opposition that has remained," it said.

hope is lost among the people ... there are no avenues in which things will improve.

Speaking to the Post Thursday, Basil Fernando, director of the commission, said Cambodia's human rights record was as dire as Myanmar's.  

"Cambodia has one of the worst human rights records in Asia, for the simple reason that none of its systems of protection are working," he said.

"The judicial system is primitive and rudimentary, and the police system is completely subservient to the existing regime," he said. "There is no way for ordinary people to make complaints, and the result is that they take everything lying down. People have no energy to pursue their rights. It is a type of social control, and it is getting worse," he added.

The commission's report cited the proposed introduction of a new law to monitor NGOs, the downgrading of the UN mandate and a failed legal system as the key factors behind the back-sliding rights record.

Hope is lost

Fernando said Cambodia's human rights record had returned to a state worse than the years following the UN elections in 1993.

"Hope is lost among the people, as there are no avenues in which things will improve," he said.

He said the reduction of the UN mandate following the resignation of Special Rapporteur Yash Ghai was further isolating Cambodia from standards promoted by international monitoring.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights, said the most concerning marker on Cambodia's 2008 record was the introduction of the NGO law.

"Democratic space is now more limited, and it is obvious the government wants to control this space even more with the introduction of the NGO law," he said. "Things will definitely get worse in 2009 if the NGO law as it stands is passed."

He also agreed with the report's assertion that the consolidation of power by the ruling party would be a nail in the coffin of the country's fragile democracy. 

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