Source: Khmer Times
In the last two years, human rights defenders and others critical of the government have been allegedly the main victims of Cambodia’s fractious political climate, rights group Licadho claimed in a press release on Monday.
The group, publishing a report titled “The Dangers of Dissent: Attacks on Human Rights Defenders”, said that as Cambodia’s human rights situation continues to deteriorate, speaking out against state-perpetrated abuses is crucial.
Licadho said in its report that it investigated more than 100
cases of suppression on the right to freedom of assembly and expression in the past two years.
It also noted that in the two years, more than 20 political prisoners spent time in jail.
The group said that in July 2016, one human rights defender, political analyst Kem Ley, paid the ultimate price for speaking out when he was shot dead in a petrol station.
Long-standing tactics used to silence human right defenders include judicial harassment by an allegedly politicised court system, state sponsored violence, and intolerance of peaceful protests, Licadho said.
The report also said that belligerent rhetoric from government officials and the armed forces have become commonplace, while peaceful assembly and expression has been disingenuously labelled as colour revolutions and shut down, at times violently, by authorities.
Last week, the so-called Adhoc Five, a group of former and current human rights defenders, were released on bail after more that 400 days in jail.
They still face trial on charges of bribing a witness in a case Licadho believes to be politically motivated.
“While last week’s release on bail of the four Adhoc staff and National Election Committee member Ny Chakrya was a welcome first step, they still face charges and other human rights defenders are still behind bars,” said Naly Pilorge, deputy director of Licadho.
“All imprisoned human rights defenders who have been persecuted just for standing up and speaking out against injustice must be released immediately and unconditionally, and their charges dropped.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said that the Licadho report misrepresented the government.
“All people can expresses their perspectives, but often their expression is just to attack the government,” Mr Siphan said.
Am Sam Ath, a senior co-ordinator for Licadho, said the report by his organisation is the truth and not biased.
“The government always denies these kinds of reports,” he said.