T he Post publishes excerpts from the 1995 U.S. State Department's country report
on the human rights practices in Cambodia.
CAMBODIA completed its second year under democratic rule after 20 years of undemocratic
regimes and civil war. The transition to a democratically elected government followed
the signing of the Paris Peace Accords by Cambodia's rival factions in 1991, which
led to free and fair elections administered by the United Nations in May 1993, and
the promulgation of a constitution in September 1993.
King Norodom Sihanouk is the constitutional monarch and Head of State. Most power
lies with the executive branch; the judiciary is not independent in practice. The
Khmer Rouge, which signed the Paris Accords but refused to implement them, continue
to wage a mostly low-level guerrilla insurgency against the Government.
The police have primary responsibility for internal security, but the Royal Cambodian
Armed Forces (RCAF), including the military police, also have domestic security responsibilities.
In early 1995, the Government started efforts to integrate 19,000 former FUNCINPEC
and Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) personnel into the police force. The
Government also continued to implement an ambitious reform plan to improve RCAF performance.
Members of the security forces committed human rights violations, for which they
were rarely prosecuted.
The human rights situation worsened in several respects, including tolerance for
opposition views, but it continued to be better than during previous regimes. There
continued to be reports of numerous abuses, including political intimidation and
instances of extra judicial killings. There were also credible reports that members
of the security forces beat detainees. Prison conditions remained poor, and prolonged
detention was a problem. The Government lacked the resources or the political will
to act aggressively against individuals, particularly members of the military, who
were responsible for such abuses. The Government imposed some restrictions on freedom
of expression and prosecuted several journalists critical of the Government. These
cases, as well as the removal of an outspoken member of parliament by his party and
a grenade attack at an opposition party headquarters, led to concern that the Government
was becoming less tolerant of opposing views. Emerging democratic institutions, particularly
the judiciary, still are weak. The judiciary is subject to influence by the executive
and marred by inefficiency, lack of training, a shortage of resources, and corruption
related to low wages. People were effectively denied the right to a fair trial. The
ethnic Vietnamese minority faced widespread discrimination and some violence, and
people with disabilities also faced societal discrimination. Abuse of children is
common. Persons living in Khmer Rouge zones were denied virtually all political rights
and were subject to serious human rights abuses by the Khmer Rouge leadership.
There was no evidence of a government-sponsored campaign of violence, but there was
one reported case of a killing by government agents for political reasons. In February
two local militia members from Mong Russey district, Battambang, were arrested for
killing two suspected Khmer Rouge members. They were released pending trial in May
but were never tried. There were reports that the military pressured the court to
release the suspects.
There were a number of credible reports that members of government security forces
committed extra judicial killings. The authorities made few arrests in connection
with these crimes, due to a combination of ineffectiveness of law enforcement, intimidation
of civilian authorities by the military, and in some cases a lack of prosecutorial
The Khmer Rouge continued to summarily execute civilians in areas under its control.
The Khmer Rouge also continued to carry out its policy, announced in 1994, to systematically
execute government officials in the countryside. On May 20, approximately 30 Khmer
Rouge entered a village in Kompong Thom province and fired on villagers, killing
4 ethnic Vietnamese and a Khmer policeman. In July a Sihanoukville court found a
former Khmer Rouge soldier guilty of the November 1994 murders of three foreign tourists.
He was sentenced to 15 years in prison along with five other Khmer Rouge members
who were tried in absentia.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. However, there was
one known instance in which RCAF officers abducted a farmer from Kompong Chhnang
province and then moved him to an unknown location. He has not been heard of since.
The military officials acknowledged taking the farmer into custody for suspected
links to the Khmer Rouge but claimed that he had escaped.
The Khmer Rouge often abducted people for periods of two weeks to a month, mostly
to serve as porters. In Koh Kong province, over 40 people disappeared and were assumed
to have been killed by the Khmer Rouge in a revenge attack following attacks by government
The Government does not systematically use torture, but there were credible reports
that security officials often severely beat criminal detainees, particularly during
interrogation. In one particularly egregious case, police severely beat a 15-year-old
suspected of theft, and his mother. The mother had internal injuries as a result.
The police later returned to the home of the 15-year-old, beat and tortured him,
including use of electric shock, and took him into police custody, where he was held
for three days without food and water. Police denied wrongdoing in connection with
the case and the authorities took no action against the perpetrators.
The Government continued efforts to improve prison conditions albeit with limited
financial resources. Conditions in many prisons remained poor. The U.N. Human Rights
Center, the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative for Human Rights, and
an international non governmental organization (NGO) cited a number of serious problems
including overcrowding, food and water shortages, and poor security. Human rights
workers reported that the practice of using shackles and holding prisoners in small,
dark cells, widespread in the State of Cambodia period but virtually eliminated by
the U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), had resumed in some prisons.
However, the Government allowed human rights groups to visit prisons and to provide
human rights training to prison guards.
No legal system is known to exist in Khmer Rouge zones. Khmer Rouge forces often
seize hostages in order to intimidate villagers into cooperating with them.
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. However, in practice the
Government does not ensure due process and an independent judiciary. The courts are
subject to influence by the executive, and there is widespread corruption among judges
who do not receive a living wage. Civilian courts are often unable to try members
of the military.
The courts often pressure victims of crimes to accept small cash settlements from
the accused. When a case does make its way to court, the verdict is often determined
by a judge before the case is heard, sometimes on the basis of a bribe by the accuser
or the defendant. Sworn, written statements from witnesses and the accused are usually
the extent of evidence presented in trials. Often these statements result from beatings
or threats by investigating officials, and illiterate defendants are often not informed
of the content of written confessions they are forced to sign. In cases involving
the military, military officers often exert pressure on judges to have the defendant
Defendants are legally entitled to a presumption of innocence and the right of appeal.
However, because of extensive corruption, defendants are often expected to bribe
the judge for a favorable verdict and therefore are effectively denied the presumption
There were no reports of political prisoners.
Fighting between government forces and the Khmer Rouge insurgency continued. As in
previous years, many civilians were killed or wounded by indiscriminate shelling
and by land mines laid by both sides. villages were subjected to burning and looting
by the Khmer Rouge. These attacks escalated following an October 1994 Khmer Rouge
policy decision to harass local officials and terrorize the local population.
The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association.
Large, organized political demonstrations are rare, although small demonstrations
by villagers in front of the house of the two Prime Ministers were tolerated by the
The Government requires indigenous NGOs to register with the Ministry of Interior.
The Government delayed the registration of some NGOs in 1995 on the grounds that
it was in the process of drafting legislation regulating NGOs. However, no action
has been taken to date against unregistered NGOs
In Khmer Rouge-controlled areas, freedom of assembly and association do not exist.
The constitution provides for freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination based
on religion. The Government respects this right in practice.
The Government does not restrict travel outside Cambodia or within parts of Cambodia
it controls, although the presence of land mines and bandits makes travel in some
areas perilous. The Khmer Rouge, who refused to comply with the Paris Accords by
opening the areas they control, continued to restrict access to from, and within
Tens of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese fled Cambodia in early 1993 due to racial
violence directed at Vietnamese. Many returned after the elections. However, the
Cambodian authorities stopped and forbade reentry to several thousand boats on the
Mekong River. Although most of these people have been allowed to return and others
reentered quietly over land, some remain stranded in the border area.
The Constitution provides for the right of citizens to change their government, and
most citizens exercised this right by participating in the 1993 U.N. administered
elections. In those areas of the country controlled by the Khmer Rouge, citizens
cannot exercise this right.
Cambodia's large international and indigenous human rights community, which first
began operating under UNTAC, remained active and engaged in diverse activities. Numerous
indigenous and international human rights organizations and the U.N. Human Rights
Center conducted highly effective human rights training for civil servants, members
of the security forces, villagers, and other groups. There are 40 Cambodian human
rights NGOs which carried out investigations of human rights abuses. The National
Assembly's Human Rights commission, headed by a former NGO leader, served as a liaison
between the Assembly and the human rights community. According to NGO leaders, communication
between human rights NGOs and the executive branch of the Government improved in
1995. Most human rights NGOs reported little overt intimidation, although many felt
that the sensitive issues they covered required them to exercise caution in carrying
out their activities.
The Khmer Rouge do not permit any investigation of human rights violations within