A MNESTY International has blasted Cambodia's government for failing to bring to
justice police and soldiers who abuse and terrorize the populace.
some of these cases, the weight of evidence against the perpetrators is
overwhelming and yet they remain free to continue with their illegal activities,
" says an upcoming annual report from the London-based human rights group,
obtained by the Post.
In the strongly-worded report, Amnesty says the
Royal Government "has become less tolerant of any criticism of its policies in
the media and by human rights groups" since the attempted coup last
"Journalists, editors and human rights workers have increasingly
operated in a climate of unease, victims of veiled or open threats from people
The report chronicles numerous cases of
politically-motivated killings, torture, forced conscription, intimidation of
the judiciary, arbitrary harassment of civilians and attacks on ethnic
It says government and military authorities are well aware
of the abuses, however, official investigations "appear to be designed to refute
the findings of human rights investigators, rather than to search for the
In particular, Amnesty criticizes the Special Investigation
Commission assigned to probe the operation of the S-91 military intelligence
unit in Battambang, accused of running an illegal detention centre near Wat Cheu
Kmau where at least 35 prisoners were tortured and murdered and 19 others
So far, no arrests have been made by the nine-person
commission, appointed last July and made up entirely of members of the Cambodian
People's Party (CPP), putting several commissioners in "a clear conflict of
"Amnesty International fears that elements within the
military and political hierarchy of the CPP and its former army, the CPAF, have
been able to prevent any action being taken against the perpetrators of these
crimes," reads the report.
Meanwhile, the Cambodian government is suing
two French newspapers for defamation, over articles which made reference to
killings and mutilation of corpses at Cheu Kmau.
"Publication of facts is
not defamation. Attempting to cover up human rights violations because it is
politically expedient to do so is a crime," the report states.
also condemns the Khmer Rouge for deliberate arbitrary killings, the taking of
civilian hostages and the forcible eviction of whole villages - as well as
continued attacks on ethnic Vietnamese.
However, it warns: "Abuses
committed by this group - which Amnesty International condemns - should never be
used as a means to divert attention from, and still less to justify, human
rights violations committed by the government side."
As it has in
previous reports, Amnesty also denounces the continued persecution and
discrimination against the country's ethnic Vietnamese minority by government
While it does list a few "positives" - such as the
establishment of the Cambodian Court of Appeals and the Commission on Human
Rights and Reception of Complaints of the National Assembly - the report warns
several new or proposed laws, such as the draft press law, could easily lead to
human rights abuses.
Criminal penalties proposed for the defamation and
humiliation of individuals would be "an infringement of international human
rights standards and should be replaced by civil sanctions, such as fines,"
It also recommends the government:
- Immediately investigate human rights abuses, bring perpetrators to justice
and provide financial compensation to victims;
- Instruct security forces to protect basic human rights and promptly
investigate any reported violations during armed conflict - in particular the
beheading of a KR prisoner of war in Battambang in May 1994;
- Provide equal rights and protection for ethnic minorities;
- Ensure the end of harassment and threats against journalists, editors and
human rights workers.
"Failure to act now to stop violations and to change laws and practices which
allow them to occur, will lead to more violence and may further compromise the
fragile restoration of normality in Cambodia."