A politicised and ineffective judiciary, constraints on press freedom and the arbitrary suspension of the right to assemble in Phnom Penh have been listed as Cambodia’s leading human rights problems by the United States government.
In its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, released yesterday, the US state department catalogued a litany of abuses by the Kingdom’s authorities last year, including continued prisoner abuse, pervasive corruption, ineffective governmental human rights bodies and trafficking in persons.
Launching the series, which covers countries across the world, US Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a message to leaders who might be “upset” by their country’s report.
“The discomfort that these reports sometimes cause does more to reinforce than to undermine the value and credibility of these reports,” Kerry, speaking in Washington, said, according to a transcript online. “Truth cannot successfully be evaded or dented or defeated, not over time. It can be changed. The truth wins out.”
Over more than 11,000 words, the report offered up a grim picture of most sectors ranging from the political arrests of opposition supporters, “numerous flaws” in the election process, child labour, corruption in the education system and crackdowns on protest rallies.
Arbitrary killings – such as the shooting of garment factory workers by security forces at a protest on the capital’s Veng Sreng Boulevard in January 2014 – were also cited, with the report noting officials were often shielded from justice.
“Police officials committed abuses with impunity and in most cases the government took little or no action,” it read.
The report also questioned the government’s own human rights oversight bodies, saying they lacked transparency and met infrequently.
However, president of the government’s Human Right Committee Mak Sambath yesterday rejected the report out of hand.
“Their report has no base evidence and we don’t know where they get the source. Do they just have two or three people sit down to write it?” he said. “The government … has been taking care of the people. We never want to see Cambodians suffer.”