Cambodia is in the midst of yet another ruling party created crisis. In the July 28 national elections, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), in power since 1979, controlled and used in a partisan manner all official election-related bodies. This included the National Election Committee and the Constitutional Council, both of which failed to address credible allegations of voter fraud and other irregularities and systematic unfairness in the process. The CPP has refused demands from civil society for an independent investigation into alleged irregularities that may have changed the outcome of the election. As a result the Cambodian people have yet again been deprived of a free and fair election.
Government attempts to block peaceful demonstrations demanding an independent investigation into election irregularities have ended in the unnecessary or excessive use of force by state security forces against protesters and bystanders. Without an independent investigation, the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party is refusing to take up its seats in the National Assembly. There is a real prospect of further serious political unrest.
Meanwhile, the government continues to commit serious human rights violations throughout the country. The authorities arbitrarily arrest and detain and prosecute people for the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association. National and local authorities collude with land-grabbing investors while ignoring the rights of poor residents. Land rights protesters and human rights defenders are threatened with arrest or violence. Intimidation and criminal prosecutions against rights defenders and political activists have become commonplace. The Khmer-language media is almost completely controlled by the ruling party.
The government has made no progress in addressing the widespread impunity that has characterized the administration of Prime Minister Hun Sen over his 28 years in power. Cases of extrajudicial killings, torture, and threats implicating officials and the security forces go uninvestigated and unpunished. In this connection the Cambodian government should drop its case against two men wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for the 2004 murder of labor leader Chea Vichea. The Supreme Court will re-hear the case against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun on September 25, 2013.
Systematic reform remains urgently necessary if Cambodians are to enjoy their basic human rights. This will remain true whatever the outcome of the current political crisis. It is critical to extend for at least two years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. The Special Rapporteur should continue to report to the UN and advise the government on the need for a competent and independent judiciary, and a professional and impartial prosecution service, police force and gendarmerie; the release of all people detained or imprisoned on account of the exercise of their basic human rights; the formulation and implementation of land tenure policies in accordance with UN guidelines; and the reconstitution of all election-related bodies to ensure their political independence.