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Rights defenders under fire

Rights defenders under fire

RIGHTS defenders continue to come under fire in Cambodia, the prominent human rights group Licadho said Thursday in a report detailing dozens of attacks against social activists and labour leaders.

"Cambodia is a dangerous place for human rights defenders," the group said. "Throughout 2007, the patterns of threats and attacks ... observed in previous years have continued and intensified."

The group said that, in particular, lawyers acting on behalf of victims of rights abuses had been undermined, with many "justifiably afraid to conduct their legitimate activities".

Licadho also highlighted what it called last year's two worst cases of intimidation or violence: the killing of union leader Hy Vuthy and the alleged kidnapping and deportation of Kampuchea Krom monk Tim Sakhorn. "The cases ... are typical of the impunity which is granted to those who attack human rights defenders," said Licadho director Naly Pilorge.

When asked about Hy Vuthy's murder, Phnom Penh's Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth told the Post Thursday, "We know the identity of the suspects, and our police are always on the alert." But Licadho claims that police never seriously pursued the case. "We have been told that the court has not issued any arrest warrants," said Naly Pilorge.

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