Since the last resolution adopted on Cambodia, the civil and political rights environment has worsened significantly and, as we’ve heard today, further deteriorated since the Council heard the Special Rapporteur’s previous report last September, culminating in the shuttering of the Cambodia Daily and the arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha just before this session started.
On June 29, the four senior staff members of the Human Rights and Development Association, held in pre-trial detention for 427 days, were released on bail in the wake of sustained international pressure. Yet, authorities are proceeding with their prosecution and they still face 5 to 10 years in prison. The Boeung Kak Lake activist Tep Vanny, who has spent over one year in prison, continues to be imprisoned.
In July, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Interior to investigate two members of the “Situation Room”, a group of civil society organizations coordinating election monitoring, alleging that they violated the vague and undefined concept of “political neutrality” enshrined in the Law on Associations and Non-Government Organizations.
Almost all domestically-broadcast media is now under government control. In August, orders were issued to close and revoke the license of Mohanokor Radio and its affiliates, which broadcast Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. Independent radio station Voice of Democracy was also closed. In August and September, authorities used the General Department of Taxation to intimidate and shut down civil society groups and independent media outlets, including the Cambodia Daily.
The arrest of Kem Sohka, leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, on charges of treason, followed earlier politically motivated prosecutions of several other elected opposition leaders, as part of an unprecedented surge in the detention of opposition supporters and civil society activists, with at least 35 documented cases since July 2015.
The Cambodian government’s actions amount to a comprehensive campaign of intimidation, violence, and misuse of legal mechanisms in the lead-up to next year’s national election. In view of this campaign, pre-election reporting, followed by Council discussion, should be a red line in the resolution currently under consideration.