Cambodia earned a “Not Free” rating from Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World Report yesterday, a label it has received from the American NGO every year since 1995.
Cambodia received a rating of 31 out of 100, a slip of one point from the previous year. The report found that Cambodia’s press was “not free”, while the internet was only “partly free”. The country received low marks for political rights, which earned a six on a seven-point scale, with seven being the worst.
Cambodia also failed to qualify as an “electoral democracy”. Among its ASEAN peers, it only scored better than Brunei, Vietnam and Laos.
The past year saw what many have characterised as an assault on the opposition that included the exile of opposition party president Sam Rainsy, the conviction of his deputy Kem Sokha, the arrests and convictions of two opposition lawmakers, and the conviction in absentia of a third.
However, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the government, dismissed the report as “biased”, “false” and “propaganda”.
Observers, however, took the report more seriously, with Chak Sopheap, of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, saying that “the peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms is severely restricted” in Cambodia.
UN human rights representative Wan-Hea Lee, meanwhile, said the index “point[s] to weaknesses in the rule of law, still prevalent corruption and a corresponding lack of confidence in corrupt institutions”.