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Cambodia: Focus Should Be on Rights, Not Elections

(New York) - In a report, "Cambodia: Aftermath of the Coup," Human Rights Watch/Asia calls on the international community to ensure that before elections are contemplated in Cambodia, the opposition members now in Thailand must feel it is safe to return and those members of First Prime Minister Hun Sen's government responsible for grave human rights violations during and after the July 5-6 coup must be brought to justice.

It also calls on the international community to step up support for the beleaguered Phnom Penh office of the United Nations Centre for Human Rights. Hun Sen has accused the Centre's staff of making untrue assertions about political executions, when in fact, its accounts have been documented in detail.
"The burden should be on Hun Sen to explain the exact circumstances under which leading FUNCINPEC figures and their bodyguards were killed and arrest those responsible for murder," said Sidney Jones, executive director of Human Rights Watch/Asia.

The report, which includes a detailed analysis of events leading up to the coup, notes that other governments have reacted to Hun Sen's siezure of power with a mixture of firmness and appeasement. Japan, Cambodia's largest donor, effectively suspended aid by recalling its aid workers after the coup. However, the aid workers recently returned, and Japanese aid has resumed based on the Cambodian government's expressed intent to comply with a four-point set of conditions. One of those conditions, "assuring fundamental human rights and political freedom," most certainly has not been met. China has given full support to Hun Sen. The U.S., while continuing to suspend non-humanitarian aid, has provided only minimal assistance to Cambodians facing persecution and its embassy in Phnom Penh has refused to give sanctuary to those at risk. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has played a constructive mediating role and took the important step of postponing Cambodia's membership, but it has also effectively recognized Foreign Minister Ung Huot as first prime minister in place of the deposed Prince Norodom Ranariddh, thus giving legitimacy to the coup.

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