The human rights report released
January 30 harshly criticizes the CPP for manipulating the political
environment in order to prepare for tightening freedom of expression and cutting
back democratic rights after the July 2008 national elections.
“The right to freedom of assembly has
decreased significantly,” the report said. It pointed specifically to
crackdowns on demonstrations that criticized the government.
“We notice that after the government’s
coalition partner weakened and separated, and the CPP, with power in hand, has
already started to restrict freedom of assembly,” said the Adhoc report.
The report cited 32 peaceful
demonstrations in 2007 in which the government intervened.
“Peaceful demonstrations were
barred by the local authorities in different ways,” the report said.
“Only a few of all peaceful
demonstrations over land disputes held in front of the National Assembly, in
public parks or on the streets, escaped a crack down by the authorities.”
The report referred to the
gradual dissolution of the power sharing agreement between the CPP and
Funcinpec over the years beginning with the 1997 coup in which Funcinpec ‘s
co-prime minister was overthrown and Prime Minister Hun Sen began consolidating his party’s power. Since the
1993 elections, Funcinpec’s losses have deepened, leading to serious divisions
within the party and decreasing popularity among voters, which is a major
source of concern among democracy advocates and elections watchers as the July
The report said that if the non-CPP parties
such as Funcinpec and SRP, Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP) and the Human Rights
Party (HRP) are not able to form an alliance before the elections, then the CPP
will gain more power in the government.
Nhiek Bun Chhay, Secretary
General of Funcinpec, told the Post
on February 4 that he agreed with Adhoc that freedom of expression has been
decreasing over the last two years since former President of Funcinpec, Prince
Norodom Ranariddh, resigned as the head of the National Assembly.
“Even if Funcinpec has not enough
power to encourage a full freedom of expression and democracy, the party has
participated to improve the process since 1993,” Bun Chhay said.
Son Chhay , XXX of the Sam Rainsy
Party, said that the draft law on peaceful demonstration has already been
submitted to the National Assembly.
He said that the Ministry of
Interior has put together a draft law on demonstrations that is expected to be
debated soon by the National Assembly and be adopted before the July elections.
Son Chhay said that the draft law
limits the number of people who participate in demonstrations to 200. It also
limits the length of demonstrations and places restrictions on locations. The
draft law also says that the leaders of the rally are responsible for any
violence or property damage.
Chea Sim, President of the CPP,
said in a speech on January 7 that the CPP will continue to protect and promote
democracy and respect of human rights in Cambodia.
“The facts show that the
improvement of democracy and human rights in Cambodia is not due to the plain
words or paper report of some elements that deny and reject realities,” Sim said
in the statement.
Son Chhay meanwhile said the government
always uses demonstrations to target opposition activists for arrest. “I think
that the CPP has never been happy with the freedom of expression because it
will affect its power,” Son Chhay said.
“All national institutions will
be absolutely controlled by the CPP and the system to rule the country will go
back to the 1980s (communist system) if the SRP will not will enough seats to
fill in the National Assembly.”
“I think that there must be a coalition
government after the July elections,” Chhay said. “There is no reason for the
CPP to win more votes from the current 73 seats in the National Assembly while
there is widespread of land grabbing, force for eviction, corruption and many
other injustices in society.”
The report also said that there
were 55 cases of political intimidation against the activists of the non-CPP at
the grass roots level in 2007. That number doubled compared to the 24 cases of
political intimidation in 2006. The majority of cases were threats against
The report said that the National
Election Committee (NEC) is responsible for resolving such disputes but it has
not examined any of the 55 cases.
“The result of an investigation
into the cases of political intimidation found that the powerful set up
violence as the way to maintain their power,” the report said.