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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Political, domestic violence higher

Political, domestic violence higher

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

integration.

"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

integration process."

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