Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rights workers warn political activists could be at more risk



Rights workers warn political activists could be at more risk

Rights workers warn political activists could be at more risk

ELECTIONS may be over but human rights violations are not, rights workers say.

In fact, with observer groups giving generally good reports of polling and counting

day and the removal of international scrutiny, political activists may feel even

more at risk.

Amnesty International is looking at a number of cases where Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy

Party members have been threatened since July 26.

"The point that needs to be made here is that these are Cambodian people involved

in politics who feel very seriously threatened," said Demelza Stubbings of Amnesty.

"They feel more under threat now than they did on July 25 - more exposed, less

protected."

Amnesty says victims fear that post-polling problems are not being taken into account

by observer groups.

"One person said to me, 'The problem for us is that no one believes we have

a problem until we turn up dead,'" Stubbings said.

Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy activists in different parts of the country have had their

houses shot at and received death threats, rights workers say.

The local rights group Adhoc said that several SRP activists have fled the provinces

for Phnom Penh because of death threats, including the chief of the Sam Rainsy Party

in Pailin - the only place where the SRP won.

One Funcinpec activist in Kampot is reportedly getting repeated phone calls where

he just hears funeral music played over the line.

"It might not sound like a big deal if you've only been in Cambodia for five

days" but Amnesty believes the threats are real, Stubbings said.

"The Cambodians who talk to us want to know why none of the other foreigners

who came here for elections are interested in their very real security problems,"

she added.

UN human rights envoy Thomas Hammarberg, in a Jul 30 press conference, said that

possible post-election recriminations are "a high priority" for his office

and urged the government to be vigilant.

"Much is at stake," he said. "It is very important that the political

leaders of this country will take a strong stance against any attempt to take revenge,

settle scores."

However, he said his office could not confirm any cases of that type.

Meanwhile, the husband of a Sam Rainsy Party candidate, who may have been tortured,

remains in prison without medical care, and the latest UN human rights report, covering

July 18-25, lists five new killings under investigation.

Eight days passed before Danh Teuv was allowed to see his lawyer or his wife, rights

workers say, and a medical team had not been permitted to see him at all - despite

fears that he has been maltreated.

The UN rights report reads: "He, and five other men, arrested apparently in

the same case, have been severely beaten in custody." He has been charged with

masterminding the murder of businessman Vinh Hong.

Since May 20, the UN rights office has received over 400 allegations of election-related

intimidation and violence. 174 are currently being investigated; 82 have been deemed

"credible", including 21 killings.

Hammarberg said of the government's record so far on human rights: "Too little,

of course, has been done. No doubt about that, which I have interpreted as not sufficient

political determination."

He added that he hoped international interest in human rights in Cambodia would not

fade now that elections were over. "That would not be good for human rights,"

Hammarberg said.

He said he is having meetings with members of the new National Human Rights Committee,

and hoped they will soon take action on the nearly 100 extrajudicial executions his

office has reported as well as the campaign-period cases.

"We are going to bring themwhat we have, offer assistance, international expertise,"

he said. "We will do our utmost."

NHRC member Svay Sitha said he was looking forward to a Thursday meeting with Hammarberg.

"Now, since the skies are blue, we can focus much attention on our work to promote

and protect human rights," Sitha said.

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