The Human Rights Situation in Cambodia in 2017

Political opponents, journalists, human rights defenders (HRDs), civil society organizations (CSOs), trade unions (TUs”), community groups and private citizens were met with a slew of legislative, judicial and extra-legal barriers that have squeezed civic space to breaking point and effectively eradicated any political opposition.

 

An increase in the promulgation and implementation of restrictive legislation and a crackdown on political opponents in the name of preventing a supposed color revolution reduced the ability of Cambodian citizens to exercise their fundamental human rights and engage in democratic processes.1

Over the past few years, numerous political opponents have been subject to criminal charges in

politically motivated cases.2

 

As in previous years, violations of land rights and other social and economic rights continued to be prevalent. Marginalized and minority communities remained underrepresented in political life and lacking in legal protections against discrimination.

 

The space for civic society closed

 

Freedom of expression was increasingly curtailed

 

Ahead of the 2017 commune elections and 2018 national elections, the government crackdown on any criticism of the RGC has resulted in a significant deterioration of freedom of expression, especially using targeted allegations of defamation. According to the UN Human Rights Committee, restrictions on  freedom of expression  can be permissible under  limited circumstances, including  protecting national security, public order or the reputation of others.3  However, the repressive laws currently governing freedom of expression in Cambodia are so harsh that they are considered not to be consistent with international best practice. This resulted in individuals facing criminal sanctions for private conversations that were later made public without the individual’s consent.

 

In January 2017, a League for Democracy Party activist was prevented from broadcasting political messages over a loudspeaker, being told his actions were affecting other political parties, and was asked to sign a contract promising not to repeat this activity.In August 2017, two journalists from The Cambodia Daily , Aun Pheap and Zsombor Peter, were charged with incitement to commit a felony” over election-related coverage in Ratanakiri.5 The pair faced up to two years imprisonment if found guilty. While exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression, CSOs were unlawfully forced to remove banners calling for the release of six human rights defenders.6

Increasing restrictions to freedom of expression led to widespread self-censorship,preventing civil society actors from freely providing information to Cambodian citizens.

 

The  harassment  of  members  of  the  political  opposition,  evident  in  previous  years,  increased dramatically in 2017 as a number of opposition politicians faced criminal charges for criticism of the RGC. For instance, Sam Rainsy, the former