Local human rights group ADHOC said fundamental freedoms were severely restricted in Phnom Penh, especially the ongoing curbs on freedom of expression and association, according to a new report.
The NGO released the report where it monitored fundamental freedoms for 2020 and found 178 cases of rights violations across the country. The government was restricting the rights of citizens and preventing them from expressing their right to expression, peaceful assembly and political participation.
One of the cases included in the report was the commencement of a trial against 137 defendants linked to the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, which is ongoing at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
“[There] still remains disruption by the law enforcement forces or the authorities in cases where citizens are being obstructed in participating in the activities of organizations, associations, communities and unions” the report reads.
Chin Malin, vice president of Cambodia Human Rights Committee, has dismissed ADOHC’s report because “small organizations” release reports to topple the government.
“When the police implement the law against their people they are always criticized about violating freedom of expression,” he said.
He said rights groups have no evidence to support their accusations but that law enforcement has strong evidence to support their charges.
Soeng Senkaruna, a senior investigator at rights group ADHOC, said the government by default denied accusations of deterioration in Cambodia’s human rights record and democratic standing.
“What we have found is based on facts that have happened, so the government should consider to reverse them to improve the situation,” he said.
He said the political situation in Cambodia was the most restricted and only getting worse.
Pa Chanroeun, president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, said the findings of the ADHOC report were representative of the ground reality.
“When our political situation is confrontational, then citizens, activists, and human rights defenders will face prosecution, court cases, detentions, and imprisonment,” Chanroeun said.
He said law enforcement officials were carrying out their work in contravention of the Cambodian Constitution.
“It affects the fundamental rights and freedoms of people and their daily livelihood,” Chanroeun said.
Preap Rotha, a community representative in Koh Kong province, said that authorities are restricting people’s rights and not allowing villagers to protest in order to seek a resolution to their land dispute.
The community is Koh Kong’s Kiri Sakor Prek Khsach commune and are engaged in a dispute with the UDG development project.
“When we come out to protest demanding a resolution of our land dispute, authorities always prevent us and used force to pressure us and not allow us to march,” she said.