"By any standard, human rights in Cambodia have entered into a freefall, and there is no indication that the bottom will be hit anytime soon,"
Monday, Dec 10, 2012
PHNOM PENH - Cambodian Premier Hun Sen said Monday his country enjoyed greater freedom compared to the dark days of brutal Khmer Rouge rule but conceded there were "gaps" in the nation's human rights regime.
His comments on the issue came as thousands of activists packed the capital for International Human Rights day to decry Cambodia's rights record, which campaigners say has been "in freefall" this year.
Hun Sen said the rights of civil society, political parties and the media had come a long way since the hardline communist Khmer Rouge's reign of terror in the late 1970s.
"Now there is so much freedom. But it doesn't mean that we don't recognise the gaps that need to be filled in," Hun Sen said in a speech on national radio.
The Cambodian government has faced mounting criticism from rights groups for allegedly cracking down on dissidents and protesters in cases that are often linked to land disputes.
This year has been particularly bloody with the killing of a prominent environmental activist, the death of a teenage girl in a violent land conflict and the murder of a journalist who exposed illegal logging.
No one has been brought to justice yet in any of the cases.
There was also a global outcry in October after a Cambodian court jailed a 71-year-old government critic and radio station owner for 20 years over an alleged secessionist plot in a case widely seen as politically motivated.
"By any standard, human rights in Cambodia have entered into a freefall, and there is no indication that the bottom will be hit anytime soon," said Pung Chhiv Kek, president of local rights group Licadho.
US President Barack Obama told Hun Sen last month that his government's human rights violations were "an impediment" to better bilateral ties.