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Cambodia – CHRC rebukes Amnesty International over biased report

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Fri, April 9, 2021

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin speaks at a press conference. KT/Siv Channa

The government’s Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) yesterday rebuked US-based Amnesty International (AI) over its annual human rights report which alleged restriction of freedom of expression, association and women’s rights in the Kingdom.

CHRC said AI’s human rights report on Cambodia which was released on Wednesday is an “old story” and “exaggerated” the real situation in Cambodia.

The AI report 2020-2021 on “The state of the world’s human rights” covered 149 countries and delivers a comprehensive analysis of human rights trends globally last year.

AI reported about “extreme restrictions” on civil and political rights, claiming human rights defenders, peaceful demonstrators and members of the banned opposition party continued to face “harassment and intimidation” through misuse of the justice system.

It said women’s rights came under sustained attack, saying the government used arbitrary interpretations of “tradition” and “culture” to curtail the rights of women.

It added that the ongoing anti-drug campaign led to widespread “violations of fair trial rights” while people arbitrarily detained in drug detention centres faced torture and other ill-treatment including inhumane living conditions.

CHRC vice president Chin Malin said AI’s report on human rights in Cambodia is nothing new.

“Almost all of it is taken from anti-government foreign radio reports and copied from a handful of civil society organisation groups which are given money to carry out political activities under the guise of human rights,” he said.

AI said the authorities used the COVID-19 pandemic as a pretext to further repress freedom of expression, with journalists, human rights defenders and government critics targeted for expressing their views.

“Between January and March, Amnesty International documented 22 arrests, with seven people charged for allegedly sharing ‘false information’ about the pandemic, of whom six were affiliated with the banned opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP),” the report said.

It claimed the Law on the Management of the Nation in a State of Emergency, which was promulgated in response to COVID-19, provided the government with a range of arbitrary and excessive powers in times of emergency.

It noted the arrest of prominent trade unionist Rong Chhun in July for comments he made about the Cambodia-Vietnam border demarcation as well as the arrests of at least 12 young activists, including a Buddhist monk and two rap artists, over the charge of “incitement to commit a felony”.

It said members of the ex- CNRP faced continued “arbitrary criminalisation” and increasing levels of physical violence, ex-CNRP president Kem Sokha remains facing a treason trial while party co-founder Sam Rainsy and over 100 former CNRP politicians remain banned from participating in politics following its dissolution in 2017.

On woman rights, AI criticised the proposed Law on Public Order, which prohibits women from wearing clothes that were “too short” or “too see-through”.

“Despite this oppressive environment, many women and girls engaged in online protest against the draft law, which was still pending at the year’s end,” it said.

However, Malin who is also a Ministry of Justice spokesman, said the government’s response on the human rights situation in the Kingdom was not taken into account.

“As for official reports and official documents, the government’s explanations and public responses in the past have not been taken into account at all,” he said. “What do these foreigners really want from such exaggerated reports?”

Malin referred to CHRC’s six-page summary on the human rights and law enforcement situation in Cambodia for 2020, released in February, which said NGOs’ reports failed to accurately reflect the situation in Cambodia.

“The release of such incomplete and biased reports which contain targeted attacks on the government may lead to social unrest and instability as these reports appear to be designed to protect and motivate opposition groups who act under various names and are organised and supported by illegal movements and organisations outside Cambodia,” the CHRC’s summary said.

Additionally, in its report AI also pointed out the “Right to Health” in Cambodia, saying the detention conditions characterised by overcrowding and ill-treatment continued to systematically violate detainees’ right to health.

“The government’s anti-drug campaign, which was rife with torture, other ill-treatment and fair trial rights violations, entered its fourth year, exacerbating the overcrowding crisis in prisons and drug detention centres,” it said. “The campaign, which emphasised criminalisation rather than measures protecting the right to health, disproportionately impacted women and poor and at-risk populations, including children, sex workers and people living with HIV.”

However, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the evaluation of human rights is a double standard, saying even some European countries and some states put countries in a state of emergency but were not strongly criticised.

“American law, even if it violates the independence and sovereignty of other nations, is still considered good. It does not violate anything, even if it invades other countries, it is also called democracy,” he said. “Is it wrong to take action against drug traffickers?”

He said the report from AI is similar to the critical report released by the US Department of State on the human rights situation in Cambodia recently.

“In the US, taking action against extremist anarchists is for the sake of social order, while in Cambodia, taking action against anarchists is a violation of human rights,” he said.

The US State Department on March 30 released “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” which reviewed human rights abuses in many countries, including Cambodia, last year.

The report claimed significant human rights issues including: “torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by the government; arbitrary detention by the government; political prisoners and detainees.”

But in response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that the United States should not lose sight of the “enormous moral debt” that it owes to the Kingdom and its innocent people over the bombardment of Cambodia in the 1970s.

Cambodia News Home

SOURCE – Khmer Times, Cambodia Fri, April 9, 2021

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