DESPITE evidence of numerous cases of extra-judicial killings and other human
rights abuses, Cambodia's human rights climate last year was better than in
previous years, according to a United States report.
Department's annual human rights report, in its section on Cambodia, refers to a
relatively open political atmosphere, a vigorous press and an active human
Emerging democratic institutions such as the judiciary,
however, remained weak in 1994, it says.
The report lists a litany of
allegations of murder - some apparently politically-motivated - and other
violence, arbitrary arrest and detention last year.
It notes "sporadic
reports" of political intimidation.
The report says there was no evidence
of orchestrated violence by the government, but "credible reports" of murders by
individual members of the state security forces.
The report refers to the
December arrest of a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) colonel for the killing
of journalist Chan Dara.
"There were several other murders committed by
as yet unidentified assailants that appeared to be politically-motivated," the
"The authorities made few arrests in connection with these
crimes, due to a combination of ineffectiveness of law enforcement and in some
cases an intentional lack of prosecutorial vigor."
Among those murdered,
or who died in suspicious circumstances, were three newspaper
The report refers to "numerous allegations" of RCAF soldiers
killing civilians last year in a variety of circumstances.
groups had presented credible evidence that the military killed at least 35
people in the second half of 1993 at an illegal detention facility in a remote
part of Battambang province. Human rights observers believe one more prisoner
was killed there in January 1994.
The government had not conducted a
"credible investigation" into the affair, the report says.
allegations of soldiers killing villagers in other parts of the country, of
prison officers shooting inmates and of local officials committing
Discipline within the RCAF and the police
was poor, and the security forces committed many crimes including extortion,
beatings and car theft.
Cambodia's Khmer Rouge conflict continued to see
human rights abuses by both sides.
The KR summarily executed civilians
under their control, kidnapped or killed villagers, committed massacres,
particularly of Vietnamese, and had abducted and murdered three foreigners in
The RCAF - whose effectiveness in fighting the KR was marred by
corruption, low wages, poor leadership and equipment - had allegedly executed KR
Human rights NGO's reported that a KR soldier was beheaded in
May after undergoing interrogation by the RCAF. His head was hung up on a wall
outside the RCAF headquarters in Battambang.
The government did not
systematically use torture, the report says, but there were credible allegations
of police and soldiers physically abusing people in their custody. Torture was
alleged to have been used at the Battambang secret prison.
the constitution, the government did not ensure an independent judiciary for
those charged with crimes.
Cambodia's judges were "not equipped to
operate an independent judicial system", and there were frequent and credible
charges of corruption among their ranks.
There were several cases of
people being detained for political reasons, including that of a journalist and
a NGO worker.
There were reports of political intimidation of NGOs by the
government and by provincial officials, and of journalists.
an active press but Khmer journalists worked in a climate of fear throughout
last year. There was widespread suspicion that journalists who criticized
officials were being targeted for violence, possibly at the hands of the