Annual Report: Cambodia 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Cambodia 2013

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Kingdom of Cambodia

Head of state King Norodom Sihamoni

Head of government Hun Sen

Respect for freedom of expression, association and assembly deteriorated. The authorities increasingly used excessive force against peaceful protesters. Human rights defenders faced threats, harassment, legal action and violence. Forced evictions, land disputes and land grabbing continued to affect thousands of people. Impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses and a non-independent judiciary remained major problems, with flawed or no investigations into killings and shootings. Judicial investigations at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia stalled as allegations of government interference persisted.

Background

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won the majority of seats in the commune elections held in June. Two opposition parties merged to form the Cambodian National Rescue Party ahead of national elections in July 2013, but its leader Sam Rainsy remained abroad to avoid serving a prison sentence for politically motivated convictions. The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia issued two highly critical reports following his May visit: one on the electoral system, and the other on the impact of Economic Land Concessions on the human rights of affected communities. Cambodia chaired ASEAN, which in November adopted the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, despite serious concerns that it fell short of international standards. King Father Norodom Sihanouk died in October, aged 89.

Excessive use of force

Protests by communities over land and housing rights and by trade union activists were met with increasing violence. In January, security guards opened fire on peaceful protesters in Kratie province, injuring four people. The governor of Bavet town in Svay Rieng province shot three women during a protest over working conditions in February. A 14-year-old girl was shot dead in Kratie in May as security forces entered her village to carry out a forced eviction of 600 families. A union activist was beaten and detained by police after a group of workers submitted a petition to the Prime Minister’s office in July. No adequate investigation was carried out into any of these incidents.

Impunity for attacks against human rights defenders persisted.

  • In December, the Appeal Court upheld the 20-year sentences of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun who were wrongly convicted for the killing of trade union leader Chea Vichea in 2004 despite lack of evidence and credible alibis. The killers of Chea Vichea remained free.
  • Chut Wutty, a well-known environment activist and Director of the Natural Resource Protection Group, a Cambodian NGO that campaigns against the destruction of the country’s forests, was shot dead by a military police officer in Koh Kong province in April. The officer who reportedly shot him was also killed in the incident. The government investigation and subsequent court case were flawed and inadequate. In October, Koh Kong provincial court dropped the investigation into Wutty’s death.

Freedom of expression – human rights defenders

The authorities harassed and threatened to arrest and take legal action against human rights workers and members of communities resisting forced eviction. Workers with the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, and a Radio Free Asia reporter, were summoned for court questioning after carrying out their legitimate activities in different land-related cases. In March and November, the authorities used intimidation and harassment to disrupt and prevent civil society associations and grassroots networks, including local and regional NGOs, from holding workshops and events around the ASEAN summits on a range of human rights issues.