Government officials denounced a report from an Australia-based think tank, calling it “foolish” and “unrealistic”, after it lowered the Kingdom’s rank on its peace index, citing the dissolution of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) as a primary reason.
However, the US fell in the index as well and is actually lower on the survey than the Kingdom, ranking at 121 to Cambodia’s 96. North Korea stayed the same at 150th.
The 100-page report, Global Peace Index 2018, released by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace, ranked 163 countries and territories, and noted Cambodia’s rank this year fell 18 spots from last year, “because of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s attempts to suppress the opposition in advance of this year’s election”.
The CNRP was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November 2017 after it was found guilty of trying to overthrow the government.
Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan on Friday rejected the report and said the government does not depend on outside evaluation but on the realities in Cambodia.
“It is a foolish idea for a group of people evaluating peace to find that it is in decline in Cambodia. Across the country, Cambodians and foreigners, investors and the media, are living and working without fear or concern of war, without grenade explosions and terrorist attacks.
“Like Singapore, we are taking tough measures to enhance security. As for the approaching summit between Trump and Kim, why it is not labelled a decline of peace and why is only Cambodia seen as more at risk for war? In comparison with other countries, Cambodia is more peaceful,” Eysan said.
However, Cheam Channy, a former CNRP lawmaker, felt the report is reliable as it evaluated the countries based on international standards and factors such as human rights records and law enforcement.
“It is an appropriate ranking as it is based on the actions of [Hun Sen]. [The situation] is the worst we have seen, with the deprivation of rights and freedom of both press and radio, and the dissolution of the biggest opposition party in Cambodia,” Channy claimed.
The report showed that Cambodia ranked lower than fellow Southeast Asian countries Vietnam, East Timor, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Laos, while the Kingdom is ranked higher than Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines. Brunei was not listed.
Paul Chambers, a professor at Naresuan University in Thailand, said the drop in ranking was justified.
“Cambodia deserves to be dropped far down in the Global Peace Index precisely because the ruling party has obliterated all credible parliamentary opposition to ensure it can dominate the 2018 election,” he said.