The precipitous decline in respect for human rights in Cambodia in recent years continued with a wave of politically motivated arrests and detentions in 2019. Authorities have detained and often prosecuted people for expressing views critical of the government, taking part in peaceful activism or human rights work, or associating with members of the former opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) by “eating Khmer noodles.” The dissolution of the CNRP by the government-controlled Supreme Court prior to the July 2018 elections assured that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) would win all 125 seats in the national parliament, effectively making Cambodia a one-party state.
A series of repressive laws and amendments to existing laws adopted in recent years have provided the authorities with legal tools to arbitrarily arrest and detain individuals for the expression of their opinions, including online, associating with others in groups, or conducting peaceful public assemblies.
Unlike after previous elections in 2008 and 2013, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s threatening political rhetoric towards dissidents and political opponents has not cooled off one year later. With the help of its politicized and corrupt judiciary, the Cambodian government stepped up its harassment of former CNRP officials and activists. Kem Sokha, the CNRP leader, remains under indefinite house arrest linked to fabricated treason charges. Sam Rainsy and other senior CNRP leaders are in self-imposed exile, and face arrest warrants if they return. Sam Rainsy’s announcement that he and other CNRP exiles would return to Cambodia in November has prompted the government to allege the CNRP is plotting a coup. Since the CNRP announcement on August 16, the government has threatened charges against more than 50 former CNRP members and detained at least 30 of them.
Civil society activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and ordinary citizens expressing critical opinions online and offline are regular targets of the government. Trials are conducted in complete disregard of international fair trial standards, with government-controlled judges reaching verdicts in advance of the trials.
Concerned governments and donors should respond to the Cambodian government’s widespread human rights violations by strengthening public criticism and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and others held for the peaceful exercise of their basic rights.
RELEASED ON BAIL, CHARGES PENDING, SUSPENDED SENTENCE
RELEASED, CHARGES DROPPED, SENTENCE SERVED, PARDONED
DECEASED IN CUSTODY