Kingdom of Cambodia
Joined United Nations: 14 December 1955
Human Rights as assured by their constitution
Updated 24 January 2013
note: estimates for this country take into account the effects of excess mortality due to
AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates,
lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and
sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2012 est.)
Prime Minister since 14 January 1985
The monarch is chosen by a Royal Throne Council
Next scheduled election: None
HEAD OF GOVERNMENT
Following legislative elections, a member of the majority party
or majority coalition is named prime minister by the Chairman of
the National Assembly and appointed by the king
Next scheduled election: July 2013
|DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Khmer 90%, Vietnamese 5%, Chinese 1%, other 4%
Buddhist (official) 96.4%, Muslim 2.1%, other 1.3%, unspecified 0.2% (1998 census)
Multiparty democracy under a constitutional monarchy with 20 provinces (khaitt, singular and plural) and 4 municipalities (krong,
singular and plural); Legal system primarily a civil law mixture of French-influenced codes from the United Nations Transitional
Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) period, royal decrees, and acts of the legislature, with influences of customary law and remnants
of communist legal theory; increasing influence of common law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Executive: The monarch is chosen by a Royal Throne Council; following legislative elections, a member of the majority party or
majority coalition is named prime minister by the Chairman of the National Assembly and appointed by the king
Legislative: Bicameral, consists of the National Assembly (123 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
and the Senate (61 seats; 2 members appointed by the monarch, 2 elected by the National Assembly, and 57 elected by
parliamentarians and commune councils; members serve five-year terms)
elections: elections: National Assembly - last held 27 July 2008 (next to be held in July 2013); Senate - last held 22 January 2006
(next to be held in January 2011)
Judicial: Supreme Council of the Magistracy (provided for in the constitution and formed in December 1997); Supreme Court (and
lower courts) exercises judicial authority
Khmer (official) 95%, French, English
Prehistoric Cambodia is poorly known, as a large part of modern-day Cambodia was under water 6000 years ago. Evidence of
cave dwellers has been found in northwest Cambodia and carbon dating of ceramic pots found in the area shows that they were
made around 4200 BC. However, historians find it difficult to directly relate these with the modern Khmer. Archaeologists
discovered that in 1000 BC the peoples lived in houses on stilts and subsisted on a diet of fish and cultivated rice. Archaeological
evidence indicates that parts of the region now called Cambodia were inhabited during the first and second millennia BCE by a
Neolithic culture that may have migrated from South Eastern China to the Indochinese Peninsula. The Khmer people were one of
the first inhabitants of South East Asia. They were also among the first in South East Asia to adopt religious ideas and political
institutions from India and to establish centralized kingdoms encompassing large territories. The earliest known kingdom in the area,
Funan, flourished from around the first to the sixth century AD. This was succeeded by Chenla, which controlled large parts of
modern Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand.. The golden age of Khmer civilization, however, was the period from the ninth to
the thirteenth centuries, when the kingdom of Kambuja, which gave Kampuchea, or Cambodia, its name, ruled large territories from
its capital in the region of Angkor in western Cambodia. Under Jayavarman VII (1181-ca. 1218), Kambuja reached its zenith of
political power and cultural creativity. Jayavarman VII gained power and territory in a series of successful wars against its close
enemies; the Cham and the Vietnamese. The Angkorian monarchy survived until 1431, when the Thai captured Angkor Thom and
the Cambodian king fled to the southern part of the country. The fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries were a period of continued
decline and territorial loss. Cambodia enjoyed a brief period of prosperity during the sixteenth century because its kings, who built
their capitals in the region southeast of the Tonle Sap along the Mekong River, promoted trade with other parts of Asia. This was
the period when Spanish and Portuguese adventurers and missionaries first visited the country. In 1863, King Norodom signed an
agreement with the French to establish a protectorate over his kingdom. The state gradually came under French colonial domination.
During World War II, the Japanese allowed the French government (based at Vichy) that collaborated with the republican
opponents and attempted to negotiate acceptable terms for independence from the French. Sihanouk's "royal crusade for
independence" resulted in grudging French acquiescence to his demands for a transfer of sovereignty. A partial agreement was
struck in October 1953. Sihanouk then declared that independence had been achieved and returned in triumph to Phnom Penh.
Neutrality was the central element of Cambodian foreign policy during the 1950s and 1960s. By the mid-1960s, parts of
Cambodia's eastern provinces were serving as bases for North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong (NVA/VC) forces operating
against South Vietnam, and the port of Sihanoukville was being used to supply them. As NVA/VC activity grew, the United States
and South Vietnam became concerned, and in 1969, the United States began a fourteen month long series of bombing raids
targeted at NVA/VC elements, contributing to destabilization. In March 1970, while Prince Sihanouk was absent, General Lon Nol
deposed Prince Sihanouk in a coup d'etat [a Military Coup] planned by the CIA. Lon Nol assumed the power after the military
coup and allied Cambodia with the United States. Son Ngoc Thanh announced his support for the new government. On October 9,
the Cambodian monarchy was abolished, and the country was renamed the Khmer Republic. Hanoi rejected the new republic's
request for the withdrawal of NVA troops. 2,000-4,000 Cambodians who had gone to North Vietnam in 1954 reentered
Cambodia, backed by North Vietnamese soldiers. In response, the United States moved to provide material assistance to the new
government's armed forces, which were engaged against both CPK insurgents and NVA forces. The Communist insurgency inside
Cambodia continued to grow, aided by supplies and military support from North Vietnam. Pol Pot and Ieng Sary asserted their
dominance over the Vietnamese-trained communists, many of whom were purged. On New Year's Day 1975, Communist troops
launched an offensive which, in 117 days of the hardest fighting of the war, collapsed the Khmer Republic. Simultaneous attacks
around the perimeter of Phnom Penh pinned down Republican forces, while other CPK units overran fire bases controlling the vital
lower Mekong resupply route. A US-funded airlift of ammunition and rice ended when Congress refused additional aid for
Cambodia. Phnom Penh and other cities were subjected to daily rocket attacks causing thousands of civilian casualties. The Lon
Nol government in Phnom Penh surrendered on April 17--5 days after the US mission evacuated Cambodia. Immediately after its
victory, the CPK ordered the evacuation of all cities and towns, sending the entire urban population into the countryside to work as
farmers, as the CPK was trying to reshape society into a model that Pol Pot had conceived. Thousands starved or died of disease
during the evacuation and its aftermath. Within the CPK, the Paris-educated leadership--Pol Pot, Ieng Sary, Nuon Chea, and Son
Sen--were in control. A new constitution in January 1976 established Democratic Kampuchea as a Communist People's Republic.
The new government sought to completely restructure Cambodian society. Remnants of the old society were abolished and religion,
particularly Buddhism and Catholicism, was suppressed. Solid estimates of the numbers who died between 1975 and 1979 are not
available, but it is likely that hundreds of thousands were brutally executed by the regime. Hundreds of thousands died of starvation
and disease (both under the CPK and during the Vietnamese invasion in 1978). Some estimates of the dead range from 1 to 3
million, out of a 1975 population estimated at 7.3 million. The CIA estimated 50,000-100,000 were executed and 1.2 million died
from 1975 to 1979. In late December 1978, Vietnamese forces launched a full invasion of Cambodia, capturing Phnom Penh on
January 7, 1979 and driving the remnants of Democratic Kampuchea's army westward toward Thailand. On January 10, 1979,
Communist Vietnam installed Heng Samrin as head of state in the new People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK). The Vietnamese
army continued its pursuit of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge forces. At least 600,000 Cambodians displaced during the Pol Pot era and the
Vietnamese invasion began streaming to the Thai border in search of refuge. The international community responded with a massive
relief effort coordinated by the United States through UNICEF and the World Food Program. More than $400 million was
provided between 1979 and 1982, of which the United States contributed nearly $100 million. At one point, more than 500,000
Cambodians were living along the Thai-Cambodian border and more than 100,000 in holding centers inside Thailand. Peace efforts
intensified in 1989 and 1991 with two international conferences in Paris, and a UN peacekeeping mission helped maintain a cease-
fire. UN-sponsored elections in 1993 helped restore some semblance of normality as did the surrender of elements of the Khmer
Rouge in the mid-1990s. Norodom Sihanouk was reinstated as King. After fighting in 1997, a coalition government, formed after
national elections, brought renewed political stability and the surrender of remaining Khmer Rouge forces in 1998. Compared to its
recent past, the 1993-2003 period has been one of relative stability for Cambodia. However, political violence continues.On
October 4, 2004, the Cambodian National Assembly ratified an agreement with the United Nations on the establishment of a
tribunal to try senior leaders responsible for the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. Donor countries have pledged the $43
million international share of the three-year tribunal budget, while the Cambodian government’s share of the budget is $13.3 million.
The tribunal started trials of senior Khmer Rouge leaders in 2008. Cambodia is also recovering from the land mines which were
used heavily by the Khmer Rouge and Vietnamese; it will take approximately a decade to remove most of the land mines from
Source: Wikipedia: History of Cambodia
From 2004 to 2008, the economy grew about 10% per year, driven largely by an expansion in the garment sector, construction,
agriculture, and tourism. GDP contracted slightly in 2009 as a result of the global economic slowdown but climbed more than 6% in
2010 and 6.7 in 2011, driven by tourism and renewed exports. With the January 2005 expiration of a WTO Agreement on Textiles
and Clothing, Cambodian textile producers were forced to compete directly with lower-priced countries such as China, India,
Vietnam, and Bangladesh. The garment industry currently employs more than 300,000 people - about 5% of the work force - and
contributes more than 70% of Cambodia's exports. In 2005, exploitable oil deposits were found beneath Cambodia's territorial
waters, representing a potential revenue stream for the government when commercial extraction begins. Mining also is attracting
significant investor interest, particularly in the northern parts of the country. The government has said opportunities exist for mining
bauxite, gold, iron and gems. In 2006, a US-Cambodia bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) was signed,
and several rounds of discussions have been held since 2007. Rubber exports increased about 50% in 2011 due to continued
demand for raw rubber, particularly from China, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The tourism industry has continued to grow rapidly with
foreign arrivals exceeding 2 million per year since 2007; economic troubles abroad dampened growth in 2009 but arrivals
rebounded to over 2 million in 2010-11. The global financial crisis is weakening demand for many Cambodian exports, and
construction is declining due to a shortage of credit. The long-term development of the economy remains a daunting challenge. The
Cambodian government is working with bilateral and multilateral donors, including the World Bank and IMF, to address the
country's many pressing needs. The major economic challenge for Cambodia over the next decade will be fashioning an economic
environment in which the private sector can create enough jobs to handle Cambodia's demographic imbalance. More than 50% of
the population is less than 25 years old. The population lacks education and productive skills, particularly in the poverty-ridden
countryside, which suffers from an almost total lack of basic infrastructure.
Source: CIA World Factbook (select Cambodia)
Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy, i.e. the King reigns but does not rule, in similar fashion to Queen Elizabeth II of the United
Kingdom. The King is officially the Head of State and is the symbol of unity and "eternity" of the nation, as defined by Cambodia's
constitution. Unlike most monarchies, Cambodia's monarchy isn't necessarily hereditary and the King is not allowed to select his
own heir. Instead, a new King is chosen by a Royal Council of the Throne, consisting of the president of the National Assembly, the
Prime Minister, the Chiefs of the orders of Mohanikay and Thammayut, and the First and Second Vice-President of the Assembly.
The Royal Council meets within a week of the King's death or abdication and selects a new King from a pool of candidates with
The Prime Minister of Cambodia is a representative from the ruling party of the National Assembly. He or she is appointed by the
King on the recommendation of the President and Vice Presidents of the National Assembly. The Prime Minister is officially the
Head of Government in Cambodia. Upon entry into office, he appoints a Council of Ministers who are responsible to the Prime
The official duty of the Parliament is to legislate and make laws. Bills passed by the Parliament are given to the King who gives the
proposed bills Royal Assent. The King does not have veto power over bills passed by the National Assembly (the lower house)
and, thus, cannot withhold Royal Assent. The National Assembly also has the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and his
government by a two-thirds vote of no confidence. Parliamentary elections were held in Cambodia on 27 July 2008. The result was
a victory for the ruling Cambodian People's Party, which won 90 of the 123 seats.
Source: Wikipedia: Politics of Cambodia
Cambodia is concerned about Laos' extensive upstream dam construction; Cambodia and Thailand dispute sections of boundary; in
2011 Thailand and Cambodia resorted to arms in the dispute over the location of the boundary on the precipice surmounted by
Preah Vihear temple ruins, awarded to Cambodia by ICJ decision in 1962 and part of a planned UN World Heritage site;
Cambodia accuses Vietnam of a wide variety of illicit cross-border activities; progress on a joint development area with Vietnam is
hampered by an unresolved dispute over sovereignty of offshore islands
Narcotics-related corruption reportedly involving some in the government, military, and police; limited methamphetamine
production; vulnerable to money laundering due to its cash-based economy and porous borders
|HUMAN RIGHTS STATEMENTS, ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUES
2011 Human Rights Report: Cambodia
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2011 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
May 25, 2012
Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with an elected parliamentary form of government. In the most recent national elections, held in
2008, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) won 90 of 123 National Assembly seats. Most observers assessed that the election process
improved over previous elections but did not fully meet international standards. The CPP consolidated control of the three branches of
government and other national institutions, with most power concentrated in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Security forces
reported to civilian authorities.
A weak judiciary that sometimes failed to provide due process and a fair trial procedure was a leading human rights problem. The courts
lacked human and financial resources and were subject to corruption and political influence. Their ineffectiveness in adjudicating land
disputes that arose from the government’s granting of economic land concessions, including to ruling party officials, fueled disputes,
sometimes violent, in every province. The continued criminalization of defamation and disinformation and a broad interpretation of
criminal incitement constrained freedom of expression.
Members of the security forces reportedly committed arbitrary killings. Detainees were abused, often to extract confessions, and prison
conditions were harsh. Human rights monitors reported arbitrary arrests and prolonged pretrial detention. The government at times
interfered with freedom of assembly. Corruption remained pervasive, governmental human rights bodies reportedly were ineffective, and
discrimination and trafficking in women and children persisted. Domestic violence and child abuse occurred, and education of children
The government prosecuted officials who committed abuses, but impunity for corruption and other abuses persisted.
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20 June 2011
Committee on the Rights of the Child
30 May – 17 June 2011
Consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 44 of the Convention
Concluding observations: Cambodia
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the combined second and third report as well as the written replies to its list of
issues (CRC/C/KHM/Q/2/Add.1). The Committee also welcomes the positive dialogue with a high-level and multi-sectoral delegation,
which allowed for a better understanding of the situation of children in the State party.
II. Follow-up measures and progress achieved by the State party
3. The Committee notes with appreciation the adoption of:
- The Law on Inter-Country Adoption in December 2009;
- The Law on Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in July 2009;
- The Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation in February 2008;
- The Law on Education in December 2007;
- The Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Protection of the Victims in October 2005; and
- The Social Security Law in 2002 and the Social Protection Strategy in April 2010.
III. Main areas of concern and recommendations
A. General measures of implementation (arts. 4, 42 and 44, paragraph 6 of the Convention)
The Committee’s Previous Recommendations
6. The Committee welcomes efforts by the State party to implement the Committee’s concluding observations on the State party’s
initial report (CRC/C/15/Add.128). Nevertheless, the Committee regrets that some of its concerns and recommendations have been
insufficiently or only partly addressed.
7. The Committee urges the State party to take all necessary measures to address those recommendations from the concluding
observations on its initial report that have not yet been implemented or sufficiently implemented, particularly those related to non
discrimination, children with disabilities, adolescent health, and juvenile justice.
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Cambodian Broadcaster Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison
Oct 1 2012 - 3:06pm
Update: Freedom House strongly condemns the Cambodian Court of Appeals’ decision to deny bail to independent radio station owner
Mam Sonando while he awaits appeal. The 71-year-old radio station owner was convicted of sedition in October 2012 and sentenced to
20 years in prison, despite a clear lack of evidence. The charges against Sonando are unfounded and politically motivated, and stem from
criticism of the Cambodian government that aired on his radio station in June 2012. Freedom House calls for his immediate release.
Freedom House condemns today’s decision by a Cambodian court to sentence human rights defender and independent radio station
owner Mam Sonando to 20 years in prison on sedition charges and calls for his immediate release. The conviction of the 70-year-old
radio station owner is a clear illustration of the Cambodian government’s determination to limit freedom of expression and silence its
Sonando is the owner of Beehive Radio, one of only three independent radio stations in Cambodia, and the founder and president of the
Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly called for Sonando’s arrest after on June 25, after he broadcast a presentation by the Khmer People
Power Movement to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. The presentation accused the Cambodian government of
human rights violations stemming from the forced evictions of landholders in the Kratie province and elsewhere. Sonando was arrested
on July 15, barely 24 hours after foreign ministers and diplomats left Phnom Penh following the Association of Southeast Asian Nations
(ASEAN) Summit. Sonando was charged under Articles 28, 456, 457, 464, 504 and 609 of the Penal Code with ‘instigating insurrection’
at the Pro Ma Village in the Kratie province, and was convicted on all counts despite a clear lack of evidence.
Cambodia is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2012 and Freedom of the Press 2012.
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27 December 2012
Convictions of activists in Cambodia demonstrates dire state of justice
The fabricated charges used to convict two housing rights activists in Phnom Penh’s Municipal Court confirms the dire state of
Cambodia’s justice system and rule of law in the country, Amnesty International said today.
This morning, Yorm Bopha was sentenced to three years imprisonment for ‘intentional violence’, while late yesterday Tim Sakmony was
found guilty of making a false declaration and given a suspended prison sentence. The charges in both cases are fabricated and no
credible evidence was presented at their trials.
“These shocking verdicts show why Cambodians have good reason not to trust their courts,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’
s researcher on Cambodia.
“Amnesty International has designated Tim Sakmony and Yorm Bopha as prisoners of conscience. They are being persecuted purely for
their work defending the rights of those in their communities who have lost their houses through forced evictions.”
Yorm Bopha has actively defended the right to housing for her community at Phnom Penh’s former Boeung Kak Lake, where some
20,000 people have been forcibly evicted since 2008.
Tim Sakmony protested the violent forced eviction of 300 families in her community in Phnom Penh’s Borei Keila in January 2012 and
called for provision of the alternative housing promised to them.
Cambodian justice experienced another setback today when the Appeals Court upheld the 20-year sentences of Born Samnang and Sok
Sam Ourn who were convicted for the killing of trade union leader Cha Vichea in 2004 based on forced confessions.
“It is baffling how the Appeal Court could have arrived at its verdict in the Chea Vichea case given the lack of any new evidence and the
fact that both of the accused have credible alibis,” said Abbott.
“The forced confession and intimidation of witnesses are indicative of a deeply flawed criminal investigation.”
“It is a travesty that these two men face a further 15 years in prison for a crime they did not commit, while the killers of Chea Vichea
are still free.”
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Cambodia: Obama Should Publicly Denounce Rights Abuses
Hun Sen Government Intensifying Abuses, Moving Toward One-Party State
November 18, 2012
(New York) – US President Barack Obama should publicly express grave concern about Cambodia’s long deteriorating human rights
situation while in Phnom Penh for the US-ASEAN and East Asia summits on November 19 and 20, 2012, Human Rights Watch said
today. Hun Sen, Asia’s longest serving head of government, has ruled Cambodia for over 27 years and has publicly vowed to remain in
power for another 30.
In 2012, the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has routinely used violence, intimidation, and a compliant court system to attack
opposition party members and critics, Human Rights Watch said. Obama should urge Hun Sen to allow free and fair elections, release all
political prisoners, and end predatory land confiscations and forced evictions. He should call for impartiality and professionalism from
key institutions such as the police and judiciary, and the prosecution of senior officials responsible for serious abuses.
“Obama should tell Hun Sen in no uncertain terms that continued donor support depends on immediate improvements in Cambodia’s
horrendous human rights record,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Obama should publicly and directly say to the Cambodian people that
the US stands with them against political violence and a return to a one-party state. He should make it clear that without systematic
reforms, the US will not consider next year’s national elections credible.”
Obama should publicly press Hun Sen to agree to pardon the opposition leader Sam Rainsy and the imprisoned independent radio station
owner Mom Sonando, as well as to drop all other politically motivated criminal cases against opposition politicians, social activists,
journalists, and human rights defenders. Sam Rainsy is living in exile after being sentenced to 12 years in prison in absentia, while Mom
Sonando is serving a 20-year sentence.
Cambodia’s partisan justice system and politically controlled judges are increasingly being used to target critics of the government.
Outspoken opposition leaders are regularly threatened with criminal charges or expulsion from the National Assembly. In May, 13
women protesters were convicted after a summary trial for peacefully protesting a corrupt land grab in Phnom Penh. US Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton intervened, helping to obtain the women’s release.
Human rights defenders have come under increasing threat and harassment from the government. In August, the government brought
unsupported legal charges against a human rights worker, Chan Soveth. In May a popular and politically active monk, Loun Sovath, was
detained on charges secretly filed against him earlier in the year. Sovath is the 2012 recipient of the Martin Ennals Award for Human
Rights Defenders, a major international human rights award.
The government recently began a wave of harassment aimed at national and regional nongovernmental organizations to prevent them
from raising human rights concerns during the ASEAN and East Asia Summits. On November 15, local authorities detained eight people
living along the southern wall of the Phnom Penh airport for painting “SOS” signs and portraits of Obama on the roofs of their homes to
draw attention to their threatened eviction. Phnom Penh authorities have also arbitrarily detained street children and other people to
“beautify” the capital before the summits.
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Hun Sen, Cambodia's Prime Minister, Speaks Out Against Anti-Gay Bias
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- Cambodia's prime minister urged the Southeast Asian nation's people on Tuesday not to discriminate
against their gay countrymen.
Prime Minister Hun Sen spoke at a ceremony to hand land titles to villagers in southern Cambodia.
Gay rights is not a major issue in Cambodia, and Hun Sen seemed to have been inspired by discussions of the subject on International
Human Rights Day on Monday, including on local television. Cambodian society, as in neighboring Thailand, is generally tolerant of
He said he had heard requests from gay Cambodians that they be able to enjoy the same rights and freedoms as others.
"There are gays and lesbians in every country, so there should be no discrimination against them just because of their destiny," he said.
In 2007, Hun Sen announced that he was disinheriting his adopted daughter because he was disappointed that she had taken a lesbian
However, he appealed to society to show respect for gay people, saying "Most of them are good people and are not doing alcohol, drugs
or racing vehicles."
Former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk, who died in October, caused a stir in 2004 when he wrote on his website that he
supported the right of gay couples to marry.
Sihanouk said he was inspired to state his views after watching news reports about gay marriage in San Francisco.
The late king said that as a "liberal democracy," Cambodia should allow "marriage between man and man ... or between woman and
"It's not their fault if God makes them born like that. ... Gays and lesbians would not exist if God did not create them," wrote Sihanouk,
who abdicated in favor of his son later that year.
Same-sex civil unions are not legally recognized, but many marriages in Cambodia are common law rather than officially registered.
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Cambodia: Harassment and intimidation of members of Cambodian Center for Human Rights during fact-finding mission
On 30 and 31 October 2012, members of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)’s Land Reform Project Team were harassed
and intimidated by police and military officials during a mission to collect information about the resolution of a land conflict.
The CCHR is an independent non-governmental organisation working to promote democracy and respect for human rights in Cambodia.
The team had come to Thlao village, in Banteay Mean Chey province, on 29 October 2012 in order to gather information on the
resolution of a local land conflict which revolved around a private company, Cheat Aphiwat Co. Ltd., reportedly obtaining an illegal land
concession. The Land Reform Project Team, consisting of project coordinator Mr Vann Sopath, Mr Steven Kremer, Mr Nget Savy and
Ms Nou Chansokunthea, interviewed villagers and surveyed the area. It is believed that a villager with close ties to local officials and the
company reported the team’s presence to the authorities.
On the second day of the mission, local police and military officers and a student volunteer from a government land-measuring
programme approached the team and subjected them to a lengthy and detailed questioning regarding their activities. Later on, the officials
continued to make their presence felt by circling the team on motorbikes and keeping a close watch on their activities.
Villagers were also interrogated, and in other ways discouraged from giving interviews to the CCHR staff. A community representative
was questioned by a military commander, and a local woman tried to discourage villagers from talking to the team by first claiming that
it was unnecessary, as the land was already being demarcated by the aforementioned student group. She proceeded to warn them that
they were risking losing their land titles, or jeopardising those that had yet to be given out, by cooperating with the CCHR staff.
It is reported that the team’s work was not compromised by these attempts as most of the work had already been done on the first day,
and some villagers cooperated with them even after these events. Nonetheless, the CCHR has identified a growing trend in the disruption
of peaceful and legitimate activities carried out by the organisation. An example of this is the summoning of CCHR President Ou Virak
and several other Cambodian human rights defers for questioning in relation to their work on land rights, less than a month before these
events. Front Line Defenders issued an appeal on their behalf on 19 October 2012.
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Legal Persecution of Land Rights Activists Must End and Yorm Bopha Should be Released Immediately and Unconditionally
December 27, 2012
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court convicted Yorm Bopha on a trumped up charge and sentenced her to three years’ imprisonment. The
charges against her and three other defendants were purportedly in connection with the beating of a suspected thief, but the real case
against her is crystal clear – she, and the rest of the Boeung Kak community land activists are thorns in the side of the authorities, and
they need to be silenced.
“With this three year sentence comes yet another stark warning to grassroots activists who dare to challenge the powers that be – shut
up or we will lock you up,” said LICADHO Director Naly Pilorge.
Yorm Bopha is a representative of the Boeung Kak Lake (BKL) community who came to prominence during the campaign to release 13
imprisoned BKL women earlier this year. Prior to her arrest she was threatened, harassed and intimidated and told blatantly by police that
she was “on the blacklist”, and that she would be “in trouble soon”.
The case against Yorm Bopha also involved her husband, Lous Sakorm and her two brothers, Yorm Kamhong and Yorm Seth. All four
were convicted of intentional violence with aggravating circumstances under article 218 of the Penal Code and sentenced to three years
in prison. Between them, the four were also ordered to pay 30,000,000 riel (approximately $7,500) in compensation to both victims.
Giving a clear signal that Yorm Bopha was the real target of this investigation, her husband’s sentence was fully suspended and he
walked free from the courtroom. Yorm Bopha on the other hand was ordered immediately back to CC2 prison to serve her full sentence.
Her two brothers were tried in absentia and arrest warrants have been issued.
Over the course of nearly five hours on December 26, the trial swung from one absurdity to the next. The prosecution’s theory
appeared to be that Yorm Bopha and her husband had masterminded an assault on two individuals sitting in a drink shop and had then
showed up to witness their plan in action.
There was, however, no testimony presented whatsoever to support this assault-plot theory. On the contrary, there were multiple
significant inconsistencies in prosecution witnesses’ testimonies – particularly between their courtroom testimonies and their written
statements in the case file. In addition, there was some remarkable uniformity in the witnesses’ testimony in court. For example, they all
made a point of stating that the assault weapon used (a screwdriver) had a blue handle – even where there was no question presented to
them that would have called for this fact. They also all stated confidently that the fight started at 7:10 pm exactly, despite the two alleged
victims admitting to having been drinking rice wine for hours, and two others claiming to have arrived after the fight started.
More importantly, however, every single witness stated that Yorm Bopha and her husband had not been violent themselves, and had been
present only after the fight had broken out, and only outside the drink shop. Yorm Bopha and her husband testified that they had been
nearby chatting with a neighbor and had come over to the drink shop after hearing yelling. The neighbor corroborated this testimony.
We, the following organizations, condemn the guilty verdicts against Yorm Bopha and Tim Sakmony who have both been declared both
prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. We call for Yorm Bopha to be released immediately and unconditionally, for the
baseless convictions of both women to be dropped and for an end to the growing harassment of land rights activists.
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King since 29 October 2004
Sar Kheng, Sok An, Tea Banh, Hor Namhong, Nhek Bunchhay, Bin Chhin,
Keat Chhon, Yim Chhai Ly, Ke Kimyan
Deputy Prime Ministers serving since anywhere from 3 February 1992 to 12 March 2009
Men Sam An
Permanent Deputy Prime Minister
since 25 September 2008