The past six months have seen an escalation in government repression of civil society and fundamental freedoms, according to a fact sheet issued by the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights last week.
Detailing numerous incidents of what CCHR views as “interference with freedoms of assembly and expression”, the report concludes “Cambodia is rapidly becoming an [non-permissive] environment not only for explicit protests, but nearly all NGO and civil society activities”.
UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights country representative Wan-Hea Lee in an emailed statement yesterday said, “The factual basis of CCHR’s findings corresponds to our observations.
“The UN Secretary-General has expressed similar concerns . . . about the diminishing civil society space,” she said. “The ability of civil society actors to perform their invaluable role in the defense of the human rights of the Cambodian people should be facilitated, not hindered or criminalised.”
Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson took a harder line. “The CCHR analysis is right on target. The Cambodian government is becoming more abusive, and this wave of repression has been much more systematic and sustained,” he said via email.
But government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday dismissed CCHR’s findings as the product of “the house of Kem Sokha, where foreigners pump money to topple the government of Cambodia”.
“They work against government . . . Kem Sokha’s from that, Ou Virak’s from that, Kem Ley’s from that,” said Siphan, himself a former CCHR employee.