Cambodia

 

  • Cambodia: More arrests and increased harassment of striking NagaWorld union activists

    Image NagaWorld protesters

    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) are gravely concerned about the escalation of harassment against the NagaWorld union members and further arrests this week by the Phnom Penh police under the pretext of violating a pandemic law. We urge the government to release the detained activists immediately and unconditionally, and to further respect the right to peaceful assembly of the workers in Cambodia.

     

  • Cambodia: New brief highlights lack of tangible improvements around civic space

    As the state of civic space in Cambodia continues to regress, CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, calls on the authorities to halt its persecution of activists, trade union activists, the opposition and others and end all restrictions on fundamental freedoms. The organisation also calls on the international community to increase its pressure on the Hun Sen regime to respect and protect human rights through the UN Human Rights Council and also directly in the country, ahead of the crucial 2023 elections

    A new CIVICUS brief on restrictions to civic freedoms in Cambodia published today shows that following the Human Rights Council’s resolution adopted on 11 October 2021 there have been no tangible human rights improvements on the ground. Despite ongoing engagement and reporting by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia and multiple resolutions at the UN Human Rights Council and recommendations, the Cambodian government has shown no political will to undertake democratic or and civic space reforms.

    Cambodian human rights defenders and activists continue to face repression. Over the past year, vaguely worded charges of ‘incitement’ have been systematically used to harass and convict them. Highly politicised courts mean that those arbitrarily detained and charged are often held for prolonged periods in pretrial detention and have no chance of getting a fair trial. In May 2022, the Phnom Penh Appeal Court upheld the baseless September 2018 convictions of four members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), all of whom were previously imprisoned and convicted on spurious charges of bribery.

    Hundreds of workers from the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU), a casino workers’ union  continue to face repression for their activism since December 2021. Dozens have been arrested and at least 11 people have been charged. The authorities have blocked roads and dragged strikers, sometimes violently, onto city buses and driven them to the outskirts of the city, dropping them off. This action has been entirely arbitrary without any legal justification or reasoning. There have been incidents of strikers being violently pushed to the ground by the authorities, punched in the face by a uniformed officer and targeted with sexual harassment. Strikers have been detained at quarantine centres on charges of violating COVID-19 protocols.

    Press freedom remains under attack in Cambodia. Radio stations and newspapers have been silenced, newsrooms purged, and journalists prosecuted, leaving the independent media sector devastated. A report published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 3 August 2022 found that journalists in Cambodia are increasingly being subjected to various forms of harassment and pressure, as well as violence.

    Further, the restrictive 2015 Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations (LANGO) continues to be used to restrict civil society groups. In January 2022, the Prey Lang Community Network and the Prey Preah Roka Forest Community Network were forcibly prevented from engaging in forest patrols to document and prevent illegal logging as they are not ‘registered’, a requirement under LANGO.

    “Cambodia is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which imposes obligations on states to respect and protect civic space. Despite the multiple resolutions at the Human Rights Council the authorities have instead continued to target human rights defenders, union activists and journalists with impunity. The government must drop all charges against them immediately as well as take steps to amend or repeal provisions in the Criminal Code that have been used to criminalise dissent” said Josef Benedict, Asia Pacific researcher for CIVICUS

    The brief also highlights the ongoing politically motivated criminal charges faced by former members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). On 17 March 2022, the courts convicted 21 opposition politicians and activists on unsubstantiated charges of ‘incitement’, ‘inciting military personnel to disobedience’ and ‘plotting’. The courts convicted another 51 opposition politicians and CNRP activists on 14 June 2022 of ‘incitement’ and ‘conspiracy.’

    Ahead of June 2022 commune elections, Cambodia’s National Election Committee (NEC) removed more than 100 candidates from the opposition Candlelight Party from the list of those standing. Members and activists of the Candlelight Party faced political harassment from the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP). The Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia noted various irregularities in the process. In July 2022, Candlelight Party Vice President Son Chhay was charged with defamation after he criticised the commune elections and the NEC.

    Members of the ‘Friday Women’ movement who have been protesting since June 2020 against the jailing of their husbands, brothers and other relatives who were affiliated with the CNRP have been subject to heavy-handed tactics including being beaten, kicked, dragged along the ground and, in many cases, arrested. Those who have avoided jail are often followed by the police and subject to surveillance by local authorities.

    “The criminalisation of the opposition in the last five years and recent efforts to harass and undermine new political parties during the commune elections is a signal of things to come next year, when the general elections are held. If the international community wants to see a free and fair elections in Cambodia it must step up efforts to call the government out on these violations and initiate stronger action at the Human Rights Council. Failure to do so will see the one-party regime further entrench itself in years to come,” added Benedict.

    An interactive dialogue will be held at the Human Rights Council on 5 October with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, who recently set out a 10 points rights agenda to improve the human rights situation in Cambodia, including to open up civic and political space and to end prosecution of the political opposition and human rights defenders. CIVICUS calls on States to raise the above concerns in the dialogue.


    More information

    Download the Cambodia research brief here.


    Cambodia is currently rated ‘Repressed’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. There are a total of 50 countries in the world with this rating (see all). This rating is typically given to countries where civic space is heavily contested by power holders, who impose a combination of legal and practical constraints on the full enjoyment of fundamental rights (see the full description of ratings).

     

  • Cambodia: Release union leader Chhim Sithar immediately and halt the harassment of strikers

    CIVICUS and Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) condemn the recent arbitrary arrest of labour activist, Chhim Sithar, and call for her immediate and unconditional release. The government of Cambodia must also stop the judicial harassment against her and other trade union activists in the country.

     

  • Cambodia: Stop silencing critical commentary on COVID-19

    We, the undersigned international human rights organisations, call on the Cambodian government to immediately stop its assault on freedom of expression in the context of theCOVID-19 pandemic. In recent months, the government has warned against public criticism of its actions, prevented independent journalists from reporting on the pandemic, prosecuted individuals for criticising the inoculation campaign, and threatened journalists and social media users with legal actions on the spurious grounds of provoking “turmoil in society.”

    While Cambodia was spared from high numbers of severe COVID-19 cases in 2020, beginning in February 2021 there has been a spike in cases to which the government responded with disproportionate and unnecessary measures in violation of Cambodia’s international human rights obligations. This includes a campaign against freedom of expression that further constricts media freedom and promotes fear and self-censorship in the country. These measures serve to undermine, not advance, efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

    The Cambodian authorities placed a de factoban on independent reporting in Phnom Penh’s red zones—areas deemed to be high risk for COVID-19 transmission. On 3 May 2021, the Ministry of Information announced that only state media or journalists invited by the government would be permitted to report from red zones. The next day, the Ministry of Information issued a letter warning journalists not to disseminate information that could “provoke turmoil in society” and threatening legal action against those who disobey. The letter followed viral livestream footage from multiple Facebook news outlets of long queues of COVID-19 patients outside government treatment centres.

    The government’s campaign to silence critical commentary has extended beyond journalists to ordinary people, in a manner incompatible with international human rights standards.

    In a press release dated 1 May 2021, the Government Spokesperson Unit demanded the immediate cessation of social media posts intended to “provoke and create chaos” in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, referring to such posts as “acts of attack” that must be punished. The press release concluded by praising the efforts of government officials to curb the spread of COVID-19 but did not provide any legal justification for imposing these possible restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.

    On 30 April 2021, Kandal provincial authorities warned farmers in Sa’ang district not to post images of vegetables spoiling in their fields due to the closure of markets, stating that such communications are bad for morale. One farmer, Tai Song, was pressured by the provincial authorities to sign a document agreeing not to post such content again after he shared a photo on Facebook showing his vegetables rotting and stating that he had to clear and throw away his crops.

    The Cambodian authorities have arrested dozens of individuals for expressing critical opinions about the government’s COVID-19 response, including at least six individuals for their criticism of the government’s vaccination campaign. One Chinese journalist, Shen Kaidong, was subsequently deported for publishing a story deemed ‘fake news’ in which multiple Chinese nationals reported receiving a text offering them the Sinopharm vaccine for a service fee.

    Authorities have also prosecuted at least three individuals—Korng Sambath, Nov Kloem, and Pann Sophy—for posting TikTok videos criticising the use of Chinese-made vaccines under the new, overly broad and vague Law on Measures to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 and other Serious, Dangerous and Contagious Diseases (the COVID-19 Law).

    These actions are consistent with the government’s systematic and relentless crackdown on freedom of expression and information spanning far beyond the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This latest surge contributes to the government’s broader efforts to silence all critical voices in Cambodia.

    The right to freedom of expression is protected by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Cambodia acceded in 1992, and by Article 41 of Cambodia’s Constitution.

    Protecting public health is the grounds on which the government is purporting to restrict freedom of expression. While there is a legitimate need to counter the spread of misinformation online to protect public health during a pandemic, this objective must be provided by a clear and accessible law and pursued using the least intrusive means, rather than unnecessary and disproportionate measures like unwarranted arrests, detentions, and criminal prosecutions.

    In its General Comment 34, the UN Human Rights Committee emphasised the essential role of the media in informing the public and stated that “in circumstances of public debate concerning public figures … the value placed [on] uninhibited expression is particularly high.” A 2017 Joint Declaration of four independent experts on freedom of expression stressed that “general prohibitions on the dissemination of information based on vague and ambiguous ideas” are incompatible with international human rights standards.

    The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights emphasised in General Comment 14 that the protection of freedom of expression is a key component of the right to health—enshrined in Article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights—enabling vital information collected by the public and journalists to reach policymakers. We therefore strongly condemn the Cambodian government’s efforts to inhibit the free flow of information relevant to the pandemic. Such actions will negatively impact the quality and reliability of news reporting and undermine the government’s own ability to respond to COVID-19.

    Open dialogue and robust investigative journalism are critical during times of crisis, including public health emergencies. The Special Rapporteur on the right to health has emphasised the crucial role of the media in ensuring accountability in health systems. During a pandemic, free and independent media can help identify viral hotspots or outbreaks, monitor national and international responses, and promote transparency and accountability in the delivery of necessary public health services.

    The Cambodian government’s clampdown on free speech is having a chilling effect on the exercise of freedom of expression in Cambodia. The authorities’ actions are reinforcing the already widespread atmosphere of self-censorship, preventing participation in governance and public affairs, and extinguishing an important safeguard for government accountability.

    We therefore call on the Cambodian government to end the harassment of independent journalists reporting on COVID-19 and individuals who voice critical opinions or fears about the pandemic on social media platforms and to take steps to ensure a free, independent, and diverse media environment. We urge the Cambodian authorities to substantially amend or repeal the new COVID-19 Law and other non-human rights compliant legislation that criminalise or unduly restrict freedom of expression and information. The Cambodian government should uphold the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information instead of using a public health crisis as an excuse to extinguish dissent.

    This statement is endorsed by:

    1. Access Now
    2. Amnesty International
    3. ARTICLE 19
    4. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
    5. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    6. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    7. Human Rights Watch
    8. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    9. International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    10. International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX)
    11. Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
    12. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

    Civic space in Cambodia is rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor.

     

  • Cambodia: the Council must address human rights and political crisis

    Statement at 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    Thank you, Madame President, and thank you Special Rapporteur. The shrinking civic space and political monopolisation raised in the report has entrenched Cambodia into a de facto one-party state.

    Repressive laws are routinely misused to restrict civic freedoms, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalize individuals for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly. Human rights defenders, trade unionists, youth activists and journalists and other critical voices are routinely subject to judicial harassment and increasing online surveillance. Environmental activists from Mother Nature Cambodia, along with political activists, have been particularly targeted. Highly politicized courts mean that those arbitrarily detained and charged are often held for prolonged periods in pre-trial detention and have no chance of getting a fair trial.

    These concerns have escalated over the past two years. The COVID-19 pandemic and the government’s repressive response have exacerbated restrictions on fundamental freedoms.

    The main opposition party was dissolved in 2017 and its politicians remain barred from politics. Communal and national elections, set for 2022 and 2023 respectively, are likely to take place under a political climate severely unconducive to being free or fair.

    The fragile veneer of democracy engendered by the Paris Peace Accords has disintegrated past the point of no return in recent years. Those calling for human rights on the ground can no longer afford for the Council to treat the situation as business-as-usual. The Council must take meaningful action now to address the ongoing human rights and political crisis in Cambodia.

    Special Rapporteur, given that the Cambodian government has indicated no political will towards democratic or human rights reform, what action must the Council and member states take to protect civic space and contribute to concrete human rights progress on the ground?

    We thank you.


    Civic space in Cambodia is rated as "repressed" by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Cambodia: the Council must be prepared to take action to guarantee human rights and free & fair elections

    Statement at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Item 10: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

    Delivered by Lisa Majumdar

    This is a critical moment for Cambodia ahead of local elections this year and national elections next year.

    The resolution adopted last session has not resulted in any tangible human rights improvements on the ground. The Cambodian government continues to invoke laws to arbitrarily restrict human rights, undermine and weaken civil society, and criminalise individuals’ exercise of their right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

    Human rights defenders, activists and journalists are regularly subjected to harassment and legal action. Labour strikes by the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of NagaWorld (LRSU) have been disrupted and protesters met with state-sponsored violence, including sexual harassment, and arbitrary arrests. Cambodia’s highly politicised judicial system leaves defendants deemed a threat to the interests of the government with virtually no prospect of a fair trial.

    The last round of elections, held in 2017 and 2018, were neither free nor fair. Since then, attacks on civil and political rights and the systematic dismantlement of any credible opposition have made Cambodia a de facto one-party State. Earlier this month, Cambodian courts convicted and sentenced 20 former members of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party to prison sentences of 5-10 years following a mass trial on bogus charges of incitement and plotting. Many other opposition activists are standing trial on politically motivated charges. Peaceful gatherings organised by families of jailed opposition activists to demand their release have frequently been met with excessive force by the authorities.

    If the elections take place in the current climate, they will further entrench a ruling party which has proven that it will use any legislative or extra-legal means at its disposal to remain in power.

    There are steps Cambodia can take to improve its human rights situation ahead of elections, which include removing restrictions on civil society; improving space for political participation; and ensuring that independent media can operate freely and without fear of reprisal.

    This Council must be prepared to take further action on Cambodia should these not be met.

    We thank you.


     Civic space in Cambodia is rated as repressed as by the CIVICUS Monitor 

     

  • Cambodia's attempts to silence dissent are racheting up

    Joint statement at the 45th Session of the UN Human Rights Council -- CIVICUS and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights


    The Royal Government of Cambodia’s attempts to silence dissent in the country - by criminalising political opposition, shutting down media outlets, jailing journalists, and targeting human rights defenders and civil society groups who speak out – is ratcheting up. Twenty activists, artists and human rights defenders have been imprisoned since July. CIVICUS and our member organization CCHR are alarmed by this sharp deterioration of human rights, which at the moment shows no sign of abating.

    The arrest of union leader Rong Chhun in July precipitated the arrest of 13 further people for calling for the release of political prisoners. In addition, recent weeks have seen environmental activists, rappers, and even a Buddhist monk detained simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression. One youth activist was arrested after leaving the OHCHR offices in Phnom Penh, where she had sought protection from fear of arrest.

    Prominent rights groups have been targeted by authorities for their work and this year alone, at least fifteen journalists have been summoned or arrested by police and judicial authorities as a result of their reporting.

    Repressive laws are used to curtail civic freedoms. Most recently, in April 2020, the Royal Government of Cambodia used the COVID-19 crisis to adopt a draconian state of emergency law that provides the authorities with broad and unfettered powers to restrict fundamental freedoms. A heavily criticized draft law on public order and a highly concerning draft sub-decree establishing a national internet gateway loom, brimming with potential to facilitate further human rights violations.

    We question the Special Rapporteur’s suggestion that the Cambodian authorities have displayed "increased awareness of international human rights norms and standards" during her tenure as Special Rapporteur.

    During this period, a systematic crackdown on political opponents, labour activists, independent media, civil society organizations and human rights defenders has transformed Cambodia’s human rights situation for the worse. Such severe, and ongoing, crackdown on all forms of dissent and curtailment of civic space should be clearly condemned.

    It is increasingly clear that that the mandate is not sufficient to adequately address the current situation, nor to protect human rights defenders and civil society members in Cambodia who increasingly risk arbitrary detention, physical attacks and threats.

    An escalation in human rights violations merits a similar escalation in Council action, and we call for the Council to take such action before Cambodia’s hard-fought democratic freedoms are lost completely.


    Civic space in Cambodia rated as Repressed by the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Cambodia’s Government should stop silencing journalists, media outlets

    Free Arbitrarily Detained Media Workers, Restore Media Licenses

     

  • Cambodian civil society needs international support

    42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council
    Joint statement during interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia

    CIVICUS and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report. We are alarmed that the situation of civic space in the country is worsening, with individuals and organisations attacked for raising human rights abuses, while Cambodians face ever-decreasing levels of freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

    In July this year, authorities detained two youth activists, Kong Raya and Soung Neakpoan, who participated in a commemoration ceremony on the third anniversary of the murder of prominent political commentator Kem Ley in Phnom Penh. Other peaceful protests have been blocked or restricted. In recent weeks, two local human rights organizations – LICADHO and Samakum Teang Tnaut STT – were called in for questioning by the government after releasing a report on the human rights impact of micro-finance loans; the director of a third CSO – Transparency International Cambodia – was also called in for separate comments he made in a newspaper.

    We echo the Special Rapporteur’s comments that ‘judicial institutions are themselves key to ensuring accountability in society’. Given this, we are dismayed that such institutions continue to be used by the government to silence human rights defenders and others who dissent. Such lack of justice at the national level calls for heightened international scrutiny.

    The dissolution of the main opposition party in 2018 has effectively transformed the country into a one-party state and undermines democratic space. At least 150 opposition activists have been detained or otherwise judicially harassed since 2018, six in the last week alone.

    As highlighted by the Special Rapporteur, Cambodia’s press freedom indices continues to fall. Independent media outlets perceived as critical towards the government were subject to a severe crackdown in 2017 and 2018 through threats and sanctions including shutdowns, and the environment for independent media remains fraught with danger. Two RFA journalists, Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin, face up to 16 years in prison for baseless espionage charges. Their verdict is pending.

    Cambodia participated in the third cycle of the UPR process earlier this year, committing to various human rights reforms. During its review, CSOs highlighted that this should be the first step towards improving the deteriorating human rights situation. Developments on the ground since these commitments were made does not bode well for their fulfillment.

    With independent media all but quashed and civic space under threat, international scrutiny is all the more urgent. At a minimum, the mandate of the special rapporteur must be renewed. But to see real change in Cambodia, the situation merits enhanced monitoring and reporting from the High Commissioner of Human Rights, to outline benchmarks the government must meet to comply with its international human rights obligations.

    Cambodian civil society deserves, and needs, international support. We ask the Special Rapporteur where the international community, including the Council, can exert pressure in order to ensure a substantive improvement of civic space, and whether she sees any avenue for Cambodia’s human rights record to improve substantively, given its current political framework.

    We also use this opportunity to call on the Human Rights Council to pass by consensus the resolution on Cambodia tabled during this Session.

     

     

  • CIVICUS Joint UN Universal Periodic Review submissions on civil society space

    Submissions on civil society space– Afghanistan, Chile, Eritrea, Macedonia, Vietnam & Yemen

    CIVICUS and its partners have submitted joint UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR) submissions on six countries in advance of the 32nd UPR session in January 2019. The submissions examine the state of civil society in each country, including the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and the environment for human rights defenders. We further provide an assessment of the States’ domestic implementation of civic space recommendations received during the 2nd UPR cycle over 4 years ago and provide a number of targeted follow-up recommendations.  

    Afghanistan: CIVICUS, Afghanistan Human Rights Organization (AHRO), Civil Society and Human Rights Network and People’s Action for Change Organization explore the continued insecurity in Afghanistan, which has resulted in the closure of space for civil society, including through targeted attacks on humanitarian workers, protesters and journalists. We further discuss violence against women and the desperate situation faced by women HRDs in Afghanistan who are subjected to a heightened level of persecution because of their gender and their human rights activism.

    Chile: CIVICUS and Pro Acceso Foundation (Fundación Pro Acceso) highlight serious concerns regarding the persistent misuse of the Anti-Terrorism Law to silence members of the Mapuche indigenous community advocating for land rights. We are also concerned by the lack of government commitment to amend legislation regulating the right to peaceful assembly and by the violent suppression of social protests, especially those led by the student movement and indigenous communities. 

    Eritrea: CIVICUS, EMDHR and Eritrea Focus highlight the complete closure of the space for civil society in Eritrea to assemble, associate and express themselves. We note that there are no independent civil society organisations and private media in the country. We further discuss how the government selectively engages with international human rights mechanisms including UN Special Procedures. 

    Macedonia: CIVICUS, the Balkan Civil Society Development Network and the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation outline serious concerns over the institutional harassment of NGOs in receipt of foreign funding since 2016. Despite a recent improvement in respect for civic freedoms, the submission discusses several restrictions on investigative journalists and media outlets. We also remain alarmed over smear campaigns against human rights defenders and critics of the government orchestrated by nationalist groups. 

    Vietnam: CIVICUS, Civil Society Forum, Human Rights Foundation (HRF), VOICE and VOICE Vietnam examine systematic attempts in Vietnam to silence HRDs and bloggers, including through vague national security laws, physical attacks, restrictions on their freedom of movement and torture and ill-treatment in detention. The submission also explores strict controls on the media in law and in practice, online censorship and the brutal suppression of peaceful protests by the authorities.

    Yemen: CIVICUS, Gulf Centre for Human Rights and Front Line Defenders discuss the ongoing extreme violence against and HRDs and journalists including regular abductions, kidnappings and detention in undisclosed location. We further examine restrictions on freedom of association including raids on CSOs causing many to reduce their activities drastically and even closed entirely. 

    See full library of previous UPR country submissions from CIVICUS and partners. For the latest news on civic space in all UN Member States, see country pages on the CIVICUS Monitor

     

  • Civil Society “Contested and Under Pressure”, says new report

    Read this press release in Arabic, French, Portuguese and Spanish

    Civil society around the globe is “contested and under pressure” according to a 22-country research findings report released by CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance, and The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). The report, Contested and Under Pressure: A Snapshot of the Enabling Environment of Civil Society in 22 Countries, brings together insights from Enabling Environment National Assessments (EENA) conducted around the world between 2013 and 2016.

     

  • Civil society calls on UN Human Rights Council to resolve human rights crisis in Cambodia

    Civil society calls on the UN Human Rights Council to address Cambodia’s human rights crisis

    The undersigned civil society organizations, representing groups working within and outside Cambodia to advance human rights, rule of law, and democracy, are writing to alert your government to an unfolding human rights crisis in Cambodia.

    As detailed below, there has been a marked deterioration in the civil and political rights environment over the last two years, culminating in recent weeks in the closure of several independent media outlets and the arrest of Kem Sokha, the leader of Cambodia’s main political opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). (Another key opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, is in exile because of a spurious legal case against him, and would be arrested if he were to return.) 

    As you may know, national elections in Cambodia have been scheduled for July 29, 2018. During the upcoming 36th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, a new resolution on Cambodia will be under consideration.

    We call on you to support a resolution that directly addresses the human rights crisis in Cambodia, urges the Cambodian government to curb its rights violations, and take steps to create a more enabling environment for free and fair elections.

    A new resolution at the Human Rights Council, when tabled, is expected to renew the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia for two years. Given the gravity of the situation, we are recommending that the resolution request a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that will, in consultation with the Special Rapporteur, assess the civil and political rights situation in Cambodia in the pre-election period, and identify concrete actions that the Cambodian government and international community need to take to ensure that the conditions in which the election takes place accord with international human rights standards.We have included specific draft language in an appendix below.

    Since the last Council resolution, adopted on October 2, 2015, the environment for civil and political rights in Cambodia has worsened significantly. Developments include:

    • The severe beating of two opposition parliamentarians on October 26, 2015, which human rights groups and later court hearings demonstrated was carried out by forces in Prime Minister Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit. The attack took place after Cambodian diaspora in France held anti-government protests during a visit to Paris by Prime Minister Hun Sen, after which Hun Sen warned of retaliatory violence.  Only three of several identified perpetrators ever stood trial for the attack, all of whom received partially suspended sentences and were later promoted to more senior positions upon release from prison.
    • The resurrection of an arrest warrant for opposition leader Sam Rainsy, connected to an old, politically motivated criminal case against him. The arrest warrant led to Rainsy’s decision in 2015 to remain outside of Cambodia, and was followed by additional convictions on spurious legal charges. If he returns to Cambodia, Sam Rainsy will face immediate arrest and imprisonment for these trumped-up charges. In addition, the government in 2017 passed two amendments to the 1997 Law on Political Parties that  were clearly motivated by partisan interests against the opposition (see sections below), and that have compelled Rainsy to step down as CNRP leader.
    • The government’s arrest on September 3 of CNRP’s other leader, Kem Sokha, on charges of treason. Kem Sokha, who had taken sole leadership of the party after Sam Rainsy’s exile and resignation, had already faced de facto house arrest and an in absentia criminal conviction in 2016 that was accompanied by a prison sentence of five months, for “refusing to appear as a witness” following his non-compliance with a subpoena in a politically motivated criminal investigation. Kem Sokha faced threat of arrest for much of 2016 and for many months was unable to leave his office at CNRP’s headquarters, which on several occasions was surrounded byarmed forces, including military helicopters and convoys of bodyguard unit troops.
    • The earlier politically motivated prosecutions of several other elected opposition leaders, including MP Um Sam An, Senator Hong Sok Hour, Senator Thak Lany, Commune Councilor Seang Chet, as well as other opposition party organizers and activists. These cases appear to be part of an unprecedented surge in the detention of opposition supporters and civil society activists, with at least 35 documented cases since July 2015. At least 19 remain in detention as of this writing, 14 of whom were convicted of insurrection offenses following their peaceful participation in an opposition-led demonstration in 2014 that turned violent following state-instigated crackdowns.
    • Cambodian authorities’ use in August and September of Cambodia’s General Department of Taxation to intimidate—and shut down—civil society groups and independent media outlets, including the independent Cambodia Dailynewspaper, which was forced to cease its operations on September 4, 2017.
    • The authorities’ campaign against independent radio, including August orders to close and revoke the license of Mohanokor Radio and its affiliates, which broadcast Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Asia (RFA), and the closing of the independent radio station Voice of Democracy (VOD). Several other radio stations broadcasting programming from VOA or RFA have come under pressure from the government, and stopped broadcasting this month. Almost all domestically-broadcast media in Cambodia is now under government control, with an already entirely government controlled television media and now near elimination of independent radio.  
    • The detention, prosecution, and harassment of four senior staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) in 2016 and 2017: Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan and Lim Mony, as well as a former ADHOC staff member who is now the Deputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee (NEC), Ny Chakrya. This group of human rights defenders, commonly referred to as the “ADHOC Five,” were held in pre-trial detention  for 427 days until released on bail, in the wake of sustained international pressure, on June 29. While their release on bail was a welcome step (especially considering some of detainees’ seriously deteriorating health conditions in prison), authorities are proceeding with their prosecution and the five still face 5 to  10 years in prison, and their freedom of movement and ability to carry out human rights work remains hindered.
    • The continuing imprisonment of Boeung Kak Lake activist and women’s rights defender Tep Vanny, who has spent over one year in prison. Tep Vanny was arrested on August 15, 2016 during a “Black Monday” protest, a non-violent campaign that called for the release of the ADHOC Five. She and a fellow community member, Bov Sophea, were convicted and sentenced to six days’ imprisonment; while Bov Sophea was released upon having served her sentence in pre-trial detention, authorities transferred Tep Vanny back to prison and reactivated a case against her stemming from 2013, when she engaged in a protest calling for the release of another human rights activist, and continue to prosecute several other spurious legal cases against her.
    • The assassination of prominent political commentator Dr. Kem Ley on July 10, 2016, a killing that came five days after a senior Cambodian general publicly called on Cambodian armed forces to “eliminate and dispose of” anyone “fomenting social turmoil” in Cambodia. Kem Ley had been a frequent critic of Hun Sen and in the weeks before his killing had given several media interviews about a groundbreaking report by Global Witness outlining the vast wealth of Hun Sen’s family, fueling concerns that the killing was ordered by higher authorities. A deeply flawed investigation saw merely the identification of one suspect, Oeuth Ang, also known as “Chuob Samlab” (“Meet to Kill”). In March 2017, Oeuth Ang was tried and sentenced to life imprisonment in proceedings that ignored improbabilities and inconsistencies in his confession and shortcomings in the investigation. A month before the Oeuth Ang trial, Hun Sen brought a civil charge of defamation against a political commentator, Kim Sok, who had suggested publicly that the Cambodia People’s Party was behind the killing, and authorities also filed a criminal charge of incitement against him. In August, Kim Sok was sentenced to a year and a half in prison and ordered to pay Hun Sen US$200,000 in the civil case. Opposition Senator Thak Lany has also been convicted in absentia for similar offenses after commenting on this case.
    • Government para-police attacks on protesters and human rights observers during an October 10, 2016 peaceful celebration of World Habitat Day. Two human rights defender victims of this attack, Chan Puthisak and Am Sam Ath, were subject to spurious criminal investigations.
    • The government’s passage in 2017 of two rounds of repressive amendments to Cambodia’s Law on Political Parties, which allow authorities to dissolve political parties and ban party leaders from political activity without holding hearings and without an appeal process. The amendments contain numerous restrictions that are tailored to create stumbling blocks for opposition parties, most notably provisions that compel political parties to distance themselves from members who have been convicted of a criminal charge. This impacts opposition leaders Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha, effectively allowing the government to dissolve the main opposition party at any time they choose. Many observers suspect that the government will allow the opposition to contest the 2018 elections but has crafted these provisions to weaken the opposition or to use them to dissolve the parties outright in the event that they pose a more significant threat to the ruling party’s hold on power.
    • Prime Minister Hun Sen’s July orders to the Ministry of Interior to investigate two members of a group of civil society organizations coordinating efforts of election monitoring on an ad hoc basis under the head of the so-called “Situation Room.” The government alleges that the ad hoc group violated the vague and undefined concept of “political neutrality” enshrined in Cambodia’s widely criticized Law on Associations and Non-Government Organizations (LANGO), which allows for the dissolution or denial of registration of NGOs, as well as for failing to register under LANGO.
    • Questionable legal investigations into trade unions conducted under Cambodia’s Trade Union Law, which has prevented some unions from legally registering and excluded them from collective bargaining and formally advocating for rights and improved working conditions.
    • Increasingly threatening political rhetoric, including repeated threats of violence and other forms of intimidation by government officials directed at dissidents and civil society, including in the lead-up to this year’s flawed commune elections and afterwards. Both Prime Minister Hun Sen and several senior military leaders have repeated claims that any election victory by the political opposition would lead to “civil war,” while making clear threats to use violence against any individuals who “protest” or seek a “color revolution,” a term which authorities disingenuously employ to portray peaceful dissent as an attempted violent overthrow of the state. Before his baseless accusations in September of Kem Sokha’s “treason” and “conspiracy,” Hun Sen made a number of statements that appear to equate peaceful political opposition and exercise of freedoms of speech and assembly as unlawful acts of violent rebellion. In May 2017, Hun Sen, during campaigning for the country’s 2017 commune elections, stated he would be “willing to eliminate 100 to 200 people” to protect “national security,” for the opposition to “prepare their coffins”, or against anyone who, and later repeated this claim and made a transparent reference to Sam Rainsy suggesting that Rainsy knew he would be targeted for violence. On August 2, Minister of Social Affairs Vong Sauth said that protesters who dispute the outcome of the scheduled 2018 elections will be “hit with the bottom end of bamboo poles”—a reference to a technique used during the Khmer Rouge regime—and threatened civil servants in his ministry with termination if they do not support the ruling CPP. 
    • An August 23 Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement ordering the closure of the US non-governmental organization the National Democratic Institute (NDI), and expulsion of its non-Cambodian staff “within seven days.” The statement cites LANGO and the 1997 Tax Law, both of which the government has cited in other threats against civil society groups mentioned above.

    The Cambodian government’s actions outlined above should be considered together, as a comprehensive campaign of intimidation, violence, and misuse of legal mechanisms in the lead-up to next year’s national election, meant to weaken or neutralize political opposition and hamper civil society efforts to monitor the election and freedom of speech, association, and assembly. More broadly, the government’s actions are an open-ended assault on the United Nations-backed democratic process in Cambodia that began with the 1991 Paris Peace Accords.

    We strongly urge your government to acknowledge the severity of the situation and the risks these conditions pose to the integrity of Cambodia’s 2018 elections. It is crucial that the international community support a UN Human Rights Council resolution that explicitly condemns the Cambodian government’s attacks on democratic and human rights norms and takes steps to address them.

    As noted above, the appendix contains draft language recommending that the resolution request the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a report on the escalating crackdown, and outline actions the government and international community should take to ensure that the conditions in which the elections take place accord with international human right standards.As outlined in the proposed text in the appendix, we also recommend that the High Commissioner should provide an oral update to the Council at its 37th session in March 2018, and present his report at the 38th session in June 2018.

    We further recommend that your government, during the September session at the Council, speak out clearly and jointly with other governments against the latest abuses, and put the Cambodian government on notice that the Cambodian government’s failure to fully address these concerns will make it impossible to determine that the 2018 elections were free and fair. 

    We also recommend that the Human Rights Council, at those future sessions, hold an Enhanced Interactive Dialogue including stakeholders such as staff from Cambodia’s OHCHR office, the Special Rapporteur on Cambodia, other relevant UN Special Procedures and members of local and international civil society.

    We look forward to discussing this matter with you or your staff in more detail.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    CIVICUS
    Human Rights Watch
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

     

  • Civil Society Organisations Call for the Draft Law on Public Order to be Immediately Discarded

    CambodiaRightsGroups

    Phnom Penh, 13 August 2020We, the undersigned national and international organisations and communities, call on the Royal Government of Cambodia (“RGC”) to immediately discard the repressive draft Law on Public Order and uphold its obligations under international human rights law. The draft law contains an extensive array of provisions that effectively criminalise the legitimate everyday activities of many within the Kingdom of Cambodia (“Cambodia”), in violation of their rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and other protected human rights. If enacted, the draft law will become yet another piece of repressive legislation in a legal framework that severely undermines human rights.

     

  • Civil Society Organisations condemn the continued investigation of ex-RFA journalists Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin

    Phnom Penh, 07 October 2019 -We, the undersigned civil society organisations strongly condemn the decision by the Municipal Court judge to continue the investigation into unsubstantiated espionage charges against Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin. The pair were arbitrarily arrested, detained and charged for the peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression and for their work as investigative journalists on issues of social justice. Yesterday’s hearing showed that there is a complete lack of evidence in support of these baseless charges exposing fair trial rights violations and highlighting the trial as a blatant affront to freedom of expression and media freedom in Cambodia. We urge the authorities to immediately drop all charges against the pair.

    exRFA journalists

    Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin, former Radio Free Asia (RFA) journalists, were arrested on 14 November 2017 and detained in Prey Sar prison. They were provisionally charged four days later with ‘supplying a foreign state with information prejudicial to national defence’, under Article 445 of Cambodia’s Criminal Code. The pair – who worked for RFA’s, now closed, Cambodia bureau – were denied their first bail application on appeal before the Supreme Court on 16 March 2018 and soon afterwards were charged by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court with the alleged production of pornography under Article 39 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation. As a result of the accumulated charges, each face 16 years in prison. On 21 August 2018 they were both released from Prey Sar prison on bail, after more than nine months in pre-trial detention, however remain under judicial supervision.

    The original verdict hearing was scheduled for 30 August 2019 but on the morning of the hearing it was delayed due to an unannounced absence of the judge. It was subsequently scheduled for 03 October 2019, however the Phnom Penh Municipal Court again failed to deliver a verdict on the grounds that further investigation was required. The failure to reach a verdict is indicative of a lack of credible evidence against the pair and as such illustrates that there is insufficient evidence to hold them criminally liable as per the burden of proof standards enshrined in Article 38 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia (Constitution). Throughout the process of their arrest, detention, and ongoing trial, Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin have been denied the rights to fair trial, liberty and security protected under domestic and international human rights law.

    Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), incorporated into domestic law by the Constitution, states that ‘no one shall be deprived of his liberty except on such grounds and in accordance with such procedures as are established by law.’ Article 14 thereafter preserves the rights to ‘be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law’ and to presumption of innocence. The charges levelled against Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin are unsubstantiated and lack a clear legal basis. Instead, they have been employed as a means to punish the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and silence journalism critical of the government. The pair had previously reported on a wide range of human rights issues.

    In addition to baseless charges, the holding of these two men in pre-trial detention in deplorable conditions for more than nine months, and their continued placement under judicial supervision of already 12 months, violates their right to liberty and to a fair trial guaranteed under international law and the Constitution. International law stipulates that people charged with criminal offenses should not, as a general rule, be held in custody pending trial - a requirement not adhered to in Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin’s case.

    In May 2019, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued an opinion on the case, finding that the Cambodian government had failed to (1) establish a legal basis for arrest and detention, and (2) provide proof that it had considered alternatives to pre-trial detention. Concluding that the pre-trial detention of the journalists resulted from their peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of association and the freedom of expression, the Working Group found their deprivation of liberty to be arbitrary.

    The prosecution of Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin is but one piece of the broader legal assault on journalists, human rights defenders, members of the political opposition, union leaders, activists, civil society representatives and individuals expressing their views on matters of public interest, including expressions of critical dissent. While the situation of press freedom was already constricted prior to 2017, since then Cambodia has seen almost all of its independent and local media silenced. Critical Khmer-language media outlets have had their activities severely restricted, including via the closure of 32 radio stations relaying RFA, Voice of America (VOA) and Voice of Democracy (VOD). RFA closed its Cambodia bureau in September 2017, citing the repressive environment and ongoing harassment of their journalists. The change of ownership of the Phnom Penh Post in May 2018, Cambodia’s last remaining independent English-Khmer language daily, was widely regarded as the last blow to press freedom in Cambodia. The space for freedom of expression online is also severely curtailed, illustrated through the increase in harassment of individuals who merely peacefully dissent or express their opinions through shares, posts or likes on Facebook.

    The right to freedom of expression, protected by Article 19 of the ICCPR and Article 41 of the Constitution, is essential for the guarantee of the exercise of all human rights, including the rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of information, and the right to develop one’s personality and private life. As such, the importance of creating an enabling environment in which journalists are free to conduct their work – including by exposing corruption, expressing diverse viewpoints and shedding light on human rights violations – cannot be understated.

    The failure to vacate the charges against Yeang Sothearin and Uon Chhin strikes yet another blow against what little remains of freedom of expression and media freedom in Cambodia. This case sends a clear warning to individuals who dare to exercise their fundamental right to freedom of expression and fosters an environment of intimidation and censorship. The legitimate and invaluable work of these individuals should be recognized, in line with Cambodia’s human rights obligations, and they should be able to carry out their activities in the future without fear of reprisal, obstruction or threat of prosecution. We encourage the Royal Government of Cambodia to cease its intimidation and harassment of all individuals exercising their right to freedom of expression and to re-establish an enabling environment for a free and pluralistic media and a thriving civil society in line with its obligations under the Constitution and international human rights law.

    This joint statement is endorsed by:

    1. Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT)
    2. Amnesty International
    3. Article 19
    4. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
    5. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    6. Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
    7. CamAsean Youth’s Future (CamASEAN)
    8. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
    9. Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM)
    10. Cambodian Food And Service Workers Federation (CFSWF)
    11. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
    12. Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA)
    13. Cambodian Volunteers for Society (CVS)
    14. Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
    15. Coalition for Integrity & Social Accountability (CISA)
    16. Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL)
    17. Community Legal Education Center (CLEC)
    18. Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL)
    19. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    20. Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    21. Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
    22. Independent Trade Union Federation (INTUFE)
    23. Indradevi Association (IDA)
    24. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
    25. International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX)
    26. Khmer Kampuchea Krom for Human Rights and Development Association (KKKHRDA)
    27. Klahaan
    28. Labor Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees of Naga World (L.R.S.U)
    29. Minority Rights Organization (MIRO)
    30. People Center for Development and Peace (PDP-Center)
    31. Ponlok Khmer (PKH)
    32. Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
    33. Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
    34. Urban Poor Women Development (UPWD)
    35. World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)
    36. Youth Education for Development and Peace (YEDP)
    37. Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP)

     

  • CSOs express concern over judicial harassment of former Cambodia National Rescue Party members

    We, the undersigned civil society groups, express serious concern regarding the recent and ongoing judicial harassment of former Cambodia National Rescue Party (“CNRP”) elected officials and members through baseless arrests, summonses, and detentions across multiple provinces. We urge the Royal Government of Cambodia to immediately cease the harassment of members of the political opposition and instead take concrete measures to restore civic space and enable all individuals to exercise their rights to free expression, association, assembly and political participation.

     

  • Government repression undermines legitimacy of Cambodian elections

    The assault on civic freedoms in Cambodia has narrowed the democratic space in the country and raises serious questions about the legitimacy of the 29 July elections. Over the last year, monitoring by the CIVICUS Monitor shows how the authorities have outlawed the leading opposition party, shutdown or arbitrarily interfered with media outlets, introduced laws to restrict and silence civil society and jailed its critics.

     

  • Joint statement on critical topics from 37th Session of the UN Human Rights Council

    Our organisations welcome the adoption of the resolution on the promotion and protection of human rights and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly in reaffirming that all approaches to development must comply with the State’s international human rights obligations.

    We agree that “cooperation and dialogue” are important for the promotion and protection of human rights, and that States should fully cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms, and ensure that all stakeholders are able to cooperate and engage with them without fear of reprisals. 

    However, we must now be vigilant to ensure that the resolution on Mutually Beneficial Cooperation, lacking in balance, does not undermine other important parts of the Council’s mandate: to address human rights violations and respond promptly to human rights emergencies in specific countries. 

    The Council has failed to take meaningful action to address the alarming situation on the ground in Cambodia. We welcome and echo the joint statement on Cambodia by over 40 states calling for further action if the situation does not improve in the lead up to the elections and for a briefing by the High Commissioner before the next Council session. We are concerned by Cambodia’s attempt to shut down criticism under item 10 debate on the worsening human rights situation in the country, as they are doing domestically.

    We are disappointed by the weak outcome on Libya. Given the gravity of the human rights situation on the ground and the lack of accountability for crimes under international law, the Council cannot justify the lack of a dedicated monitoring and reporting mechanism. 

    We welcome the co-sponsorship of the Myanmar resolution by groups of States from all regions, making a joint commitment to address the continuing human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the country and support for the Special Rapporteur and Fact-Finding Mission to fulfil its mandate to establish truth and ensure accountability for perpetrators. 

    We also welcome the renewal of the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan allowing it to continue its vital investigations and identification of perpetrators. These developments acknowledge the importance of accountability for serious human rights violations and crimes under international law, which cannot be understated.

    We welcome the adoption of the resolution on drugs and human rights as the OHCHR report will provide human rights indicators related to the drug issue that would help in future policies.

    We welcome the resolution on Eastern Ghouta adopted after an urgent debate, demonstrating how this Council can respond in an agile manner to crises.

    Having long supported the resolution on “protection of human rights while countering terrorism", we appreciate the efforts that led to the end of the separate and deeply flawed initiative on "effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights". Future versions of the resolution must address the relevant issues exclusively and comprehensively from the perspective of the effective protection of human rights. 

    We welcome the Dutch-led joint statement on strengthening the Council, emphasising the importance of substantive civil society participation in any initiative or process and that the Council must be accessible, effective and protective for human rights defenders and rights holders on the ground.

    Finally, we call on the Bureau co-facilitators on improving the efficiency and strengthening the Council to closely engage with all Members and Observers of the Council, human rights defenders and civil society organisations not based in Geneva. 

    Delivered by: The International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), The East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project (DefendDefenders), The Global Initiative for Economic, Social & Cultural Rights, CIVICUS, International Commission of Jurists, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Human Rights House Foundation, Amnesty International, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Human Rights Watch, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

     

  • Joint Statement: Civil society condemns the wrongful conviction of Cambodian human rights defenders

    logo cambodia statement 1 750x90

    The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), CIVICUS, Freedom House, and Front Line Defenders condemn yesterday’s conviction of four human rights defenders from the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC) and a National Election Committee (NEC) official, in what we see as a clear attack against their legitimate human rights work.

    On 26 September 2018, senior ADHOC staff members – Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Lim Mony, and Yi Soksan – were convicted of ‘bribery of a witness’ under Article 548 of the Criminal Code, while a NEC official and former ADHOC staff member Ny Chakrya was found guilty as an accomplice under Articles 29 and 548 of the same Criminal Code. Each has been given a five-year sentence by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, with 14 months and one day considered served and the rest of the sentence suspended.

    Read more on Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)

     

  • JOINT STATEMENT: Civil Society Groups Call for the Release of Tep Vanny

    Land activist and human rights defender Tep Vanny has been unjustly detained for two years, for defending the rights of the Boeung Kak Lake community and her fellow Cambodians. We, the undersigned civil society organisations and communities, condemn her ongoing imprisonment and call on the authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Tep Vanny, drop all dormant criminal charges and overturn any convictions against her, so that she may return to her family and community.

    Tep Vanny has fought tirelessly to protect the rights of members of her community following their forced eviction from their homes on Boeung Kak Lake, Phnom Penh, but also those of fellow human rights defenders campaigning for separate causes. As long as she is behind bars, Tep Vanny is prevented from carrying out her peaceful and valuable work.

    “We have to share all the benefits of our experience. If we stand up together, we can get justice,” said Tep Vanny. “If the communities join together, we have big power.”

    It was during one such peaceful protest that Tep Vanny was arrested on 15 August 2016, challenging the arbitrary detention of four human rights defenders and one election official. On 22 August 2016, she was convicted of ‘insulting a public official’, and sentenced to six days in prison. However, instead of releasing her based on time served, the authorities reactivated dormant charges dating back to a 2013 peaceful protest, later sentencing her to two and half years of imprisonment and a fine of 14 million riels (around $3,500). To date, Tep Vanny’s requests for pardon or early release have all been rejected. Her many trials and appeals have fallen far short of fair trial standards, with the evidence presented failing to meet the burden of proof required to sustain a conviction.

    “As a victim of eviction I can guarantee that Tep Vanny did not use any violence or do anything wrong. I would stake my life on that,” said fellow Boeung Kak Lake activist Bov Chhorvy. “The authorities should release her so she can be with her family. Her children and mother need her.”

    Her excessively lengthy detention, apart from taking a personal toll, further deprives her two children of a normal childhood, since they only see their mother once a month. Tep Vanny’s mother’s deteriorating health is aggravated by the ongoing unjust treatment of her daughter. The inability to care for her family places an acute psychological burden on Tep Vanny, exacerbated by her detention in one of Cambodia’s worst prisons, where she shares a cell with more than 150 other detainees in squalid conditions. Civil society representatives as well as members of the Boeung Kak Lake community have been frequently turned away when attempting to visit her in prison, further compounding the isolation from friends and family and in violation of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

    We call on the Cambodian authorities to release Tep Vanny immediately and unconditionally, drop all charges and end all criminal investigations against her. This will ensure that she is able to continue her work as a human rights defender, and more importantly reunite with her family and community. Finally, we urge the authorities to cease the intimidation and harassment of Tep Vanny and all other activists through arrests, prosecution and imprisonment.

    This statement is endorsed by:

    1.      24 Families Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    2.      92 Community (Phnom Penh)
    3.      105 Community (Phnom Penh)
    4.      297 Land Community (Koh Kong)
    5.      Activities for Environment Community (AEC)
    6.      Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT)
    7.      Amnesty International (AI)
    8.      Angdoung Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    9.      Angdoung Kanthuot (Battambang)
    10.    Angdoung Trabek Land Community (Svay Rieng)
    11.    Anlong Run Community (Battambang)
    12.    Ansoung Sork Community (Battambang)
    13.    Areng Indigenous Community (Koh Kong)
    14.    ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
    15.    Asian Democracy Network (ADN)
    16.    Asian Forum for Human Rights & Development (Forum Asia)
    17.    Banteay Srey Community (Phnom Penh)
    18.    Bat Khteah Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    19.    Boeng Chhuk Community (Phnom Penh)
    20.    Boeung Pram Community (Battambang)
    21.    Borei Keila Community (Phnom Penh)
    22.    Borei Mittepheap Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    23.    Borei Sontepheap Community (Phnom Penh)
    24.    Bos Sa Am Community (Battambang)
    25.    Bou Japan Land Community (Koh Kong)
    26.    Buddhism for Peace Organization (BPO)
    27.    CamASEAN Youth’s Future (CamASEAN)
    28.    Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Organization (CIPO)
    29.    Cambodia’s Independent Civil Servants Association (CICA)
    30.    Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
    31.    Cambodian Domestic Workers Network (CDWN)
    32.    Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
    33.    Cambodian Independent Teachers’ Association (CITA)
    34.    Cambodian Informal Economy Workers Association (CIWA)
    35.    Cambodian Labor Confederation (CLC)
    36.    Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
    37.    Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
    38.    Capacity Community Development Organization (CCD)
    39.    Chek Meas Land Community (Svay Rieng)
    40.    Cheko Community (Phnom Penh)
    41.    Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL)
    42.    Cheung Wat Village Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    43.    Chikor Kraom Land Community (Koh Kong)
    44.    Chikor Leu Land Community (Koh Kong)
    45.    Chirou Ti Pi Community (Tbong Khmum)
    46.    Chhub Community (Tbong Khmum)
    47.    Chorm Kravean Community (Kampong Cham)
    48.    C I 5 Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    49.    CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
    50.    Civil Rights Defenders (CRD)
    51.    Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU)
    52.    Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community Association (CCFC)
    53.    Coalition of Integrity and Social Accountability (CISA)
    54.    Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL)
    55.    Community Peace-Building Network (CPN)
    56.    Confederation of Cambodian Worker (CCW)
    57.    Dok Por Community (Kampong Speu)
    58.    Dombe Community (Tbong Khmum)
    59.    Equitable Cambodia (EC)
    60.    Fishery Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    61.    Front Line Defenders (FLD)
    62.    Forest and Biodiversity Preservation Community (Svay Rieng)
    63.    Free Trade Union of Workers of Kingdom of Cambodia (FTUWKC)
    64.    Gender and Development Cambodia (GADC)
    65.    Horng Samnom Community (Kampong Speu)
    66.    Human Rights Watch (HRW)
    67.    Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA)
    68.    Independent Monk Network for Social Justice (IMNSJ)
    69.    Indigenous Youth at Brome Community (Preah Vihear)
    70.    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the Framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
    71.    International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX)
    72.    Khva Community (Phnom Penh)
    73.    Koh Sralao Fishery Community (Koh Kong)
    74.    Lor Peang Land Community (Kampong Chhnang)
    75.    Mlup Prom Vihea Thor Center (Koh Kong)
    76.    Moeunchey Land Community (Svay Rieng)
    77.    Minority Rights Organization (MIRO)
    78.    Mother Nature Cambodia (MNC)
    79.    Network for Prey Long Protection in Mean Rith Commune (Kampong Thom)
    80.    Orm Laing Community (Kampong Chhnang)
    81.    Ou Ampil Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    82.    Ou Chheu Teal Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    83.    Ou Khsach Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    84.    Ou Tracheak Chet Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    85.    Ou Tres Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    86.    Ou Vor Preng Community (Battambang)
    87.    Phnom Bat Community (Phnom Penh)
    88.    Phnom Kram Community (Siem Reap)
    89.    Phnom Sleuk Community (Battambang)
    90.    Phnom Torteong Community (Kampot)
    91.    Phsar Kandal Village Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    92.    Phum 22 Community (Phnom Penh)
    93.    Phum Bo Loy Community (Ratanakiri)
    94.    Phum Dei Chhnang Community (Kampong Speu)
    95.    Phum Samut Leu Community (Ratanakiri)
    96.    Phum Ou Svay Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    97.    Phum Sela Khmer Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    98.    Phum Thmei Taing Samrong Community (Kampong Speu)
    99.    Ponlok Khmer (PKH)
    100.      Poy Japan Land Community (Koh Kong)
    101.      Prasak Community (Battambang)
    102.      Preah Vihear Kouy Indigenous Community
    103.      Prek Takung Community (Phnom Penh)
    104.      Prek Tanou Community (Phnom Penh)
    105.      Prek Trae Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    106.      Prey Chher Pich Sangva Laor Chhert Community (Kampong Chhnang)
    107.      Prey Long Community (Kampong Thom)
    108.      Prey Peay Fishery Community (Kampot)
    109.      Progressive Voice (PV)
    110.      Railway Community (Phnom Penh)
    111.      Raksmey Samaki Community (Kampong Speu)
    112.      Roluos Cheung Ek Community (Phnom Penh)
    113.      Rum Cheik Land Community (Siem Reap)
    114.      Russey Sras Community (Phnom Penh)
    115.      Land and Housing Community Solidarity Network (Phnom Penh)
    116.      Samaki Phnom Chorm Mlou Community (Kampot)
    117.      Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT)
    118.      Samaki Romeas Haek Land Community (Svay Rieng)
    119.      Samaki Rung Roeung Community (Phnom Penh)
    120.      Sangkom Thmey Land Community (Pursat)
    121.      Samaki 4 Community (Phnom Penh)
    122.      SAMKY Organization
    123.      Sdey Krom Fishery Community (Battambang)
    124.      SILAKA Organization
    125.      Skun Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    126.      Skun Land Community (Siem Reap)
    127.      Smach Meanchey Land Community (Koh Kong)
    128.      Somros Koh Sdech Fishery Community (Koh Kong)
    129.      SOS International Airport Community (Phnom Penh)
    130.      Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
    131.      Spean Chhes Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    132.      Srechong Land Community (Kampong Thom)
    133.      Sre Prang Community (Kampong Cham)
    134.      Sreveal Land Community (Kampong Thom)
    135.      Steung Bort village Land community (Banteay Meanchey)
    136.      Steung Khsach Sor Forestry Resource (Kampong Chhnang)
    137.      Steung Meanchey Community (Phnom Penh)
    138.      Strey Klangsang Community (Phnom Penh)
    139.      Tani Land Community (Siem Reap)
    140.      Ta Noun Land Community (Koh Kong)
    141.      Ta Trai Village Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    142.      Teng Tao Land Community (Svay Rieng)
    143.      The Cambodian NGO Committee on CEDAW (NGO-CEDAW)
    144.      Thmor Kol Community (Phnom Penh)
    145.      Thmor Da Community (Pursat)
    146.      Thmor Thom Community (Preah Sihanouk)
    147.      Thnol Bort Village Land Community (Banteay Meanchey)
    148.      Thnong Land Community (Koh Kong)
    149.      Toul Rada Community (Phnom Penh)
    150.      Toul Samrong Community (Kampong Chhnang)
    151.      Toul Sangke A Community (Phnom Penh)
    152.      Tourism Employee Grand Diamond City Union (Banteay Meanchey)
    153.      Tourism Employee Union (Banteay Meanchey)
    154.      Trapaing Chan Community (Kampong Chhnang)
    155.      Trapaing Chor Community (Kampong Speu)
    156.      Trapaing Krasaing Land Community (Siem Reap)
    157.      Trapaing Raing Community (Phnom Penh)
    158.      Trapaing Sangke Community (Kampot)
    159.      Tumnop II Community (Pursat)
    160.      Tunlong Community (Kampong Cham)
    161.      Vital Voice Global Partnership
    162.      World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), within the Framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

     

  • Letter to UN Member States: Civic space restrictions in Cambodia

    To Missions of UN Member States
    (delivered by email on 22 March)

    We are writing to you with regards to the human rights situation in Cambodia. Since the 2013 general elections, civic space in Cambodia has become increasingly repressed. The authorities have systematically misused the criminal justice system to silence government critics and civil society organisations (CSOs).

    In the run-up to Cambodia’s 2018 general elections, the Supreme Court in Cambodia ruled to dissolve the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP) effectively ending the main political opposition to Prime Minister Hun Sen. The move, which transforms Cambodia into a single party state, has drawn widespread condemnation from across the globe.

    Human rights defenders have been harassed and prosecuted for their peaceful human rights work. Further, the controversial and vaguely worded ‘Law on Associations and Non-Government Organisations’ has imposed sweeping restrictions on CSOs in Cambodia. Independent media outlets are struggling to stay afloat amidst the harsh treatment of critical and dissenting voices by the authorities. In September 2017, the English-language Cambodia Daily was forced to shut down its operations after the authorities gave its publishers 30 days to pay a USD 6.3 million tax bill, a move widely viewed as arbitrary. The same month, Radio Free Asia ceased operations in Cambodia, citing the restrictive media environment. 

    The 37th session of the UN Human Rights Council offers an opportunity for states to raise these concerns with the Cambodian government. We understand that a joint statement has been drafted by New Zealand under Item 2. As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, a champion of civic space, and a key democratic voice in the Asia Pacific region, we would like to urge the South Korean government to support this statement and to send a strong message to Cambodia that plurality and diversity in voices, political groups, civil society and the media should be encouraged and protected, particularly during politically charged periods such as elections.