Local human rights NGO ADHOC has released its second annual report on the state of
human rights. Among the significant findings of The Human Rights Situation 2002 were
a rise in the numbers of political killings and intimidation, and a sharp increase
in the incidence of domestic violence.
ADHOC's figures show there were 15 political killings in 2002, up from five the previous
year. The NGO blamed the tense environment in the run-up to the local elections,
which were held in February 2002, and the approaching general election scheduled
for July 2003.
It warned of the likelihood of further politically related violence ahead of the
July ballot, a prescient warning in the wake of several killings in January including
that of senior Funcinpec advisor Om Radsady.
ADHOC president Thun Saray said Radsady's murder was likely political.
"The political atmosphere before the July 2003 election is worse than in 1998
general election," Saray told the Post on February 25. "Seven months before
the 1998 election there were few political killings at the grass-roots level. This
[killing] has caused worries for the political atmosphere ahead of the election.
It could affect the election process."
Another key finding of ADHOC's report was the growing cases of violence against women
and children. The number of reported rapes jumped by almost half to 270. The NGO
noted that the true figure was likely much higher as its statistics were limited
to only 12 provinces and municipalities.
Perhaps the most worrying finding was the increase in both the number and proportion
of children between the ages of four and ten who were raped or sexually assaulted.
That figure jumped from 19 percent of all reported cases to 23 percent.
And there was a five-fold increase in the number of rapes that resulted in the murder
of the victim, amounting to 6 percent of all reported cases. The reason for the apparently
worsening situation, ADHOC stated, was widespread social problems.
"Impunity, poverty and the decline of social morality are the main causes of
the increases in violence on women and children," it stated.
The section on domestic violence made for sobering reading, and is particularly relevant
given that the draft domestic violence law remains stalled in the National Assembly.
The NGO found 468 cases of domestic violence, up from 375 the previous year. Almost
all were women abused by their husbands.
"Despite the violence, [most] criminals were not punished by law," the
report noted. "Only 5.6 percent were convicted by courts, [and that] because
the violence had led to murder and serious injury."
But there was a silver lining, the report stated, contained in the domestic violence
cases: one reason for the increase was that people were more aware of the issue and
thus felt encouraged to speak out.
The report also recorded 71 extra-judicial killing by mobs and armed forces, up from
64 in 2001. The authorities were responsible for 64 of those killings.
ADHOC also listed what it regards as the six most important events influencing human
rights and development in 2002. They were: the UN's withdrawal from the Khmer Rouge
tribunal process; the commune election and upcoming general election in 2003; Cambodia's
ratification of the treaty to establish the International Criminal Court; aid pledges
by the donor community linked to judicial reform and an anti-corruption law; the
Montagnard refugees who fled here from Vietnam; and the ASEAN meeting held in Phnom
Penh in November.
Thun Saray also spoke about the recent violence that led to the burning of Thai Embassy
and Thai businesses in Phnom Penh. He said that, unlike the leaders of Europe, ASEAN
heads of state had failed to educate their people about the benefits of regional
"ASEAN's leaders have failed to bring their people along with them," he
told the Post. "The leaders have taken a big step, but the people have not been
brought along. They should educate their people to understand the ASEAN regional