Cambodia’s opposition faces renewed crackdown amid China shift

As he spoke, his eyes filled with tears.

The family said they were told by prison officials that Rorn had a seizure, hit his head and died – but they dispute the story. According to Tita, Rorn had no history of epilepsy and his injuries did not seem consistent with a seizure.

After the funeral, Tita fled the village. He said police had come looking for him at his home on two occasions.

“I am scared but I want to tell the truth and I want justice,” he said.

Cambodia’s opposition faces renewed crackdown amid China shift

Op-Ed: Al Jazeera

With senior leaders jailed or exiled, local and regional supporters of opposition report attacks and harassment.by Andrew Nachemson & Yon Sineat19 May 2019

CNRP leader Kem Sokha greets supporters on the last day of campaigning ahead of local elections in 2017. He was detained a few months later and remains under house arrest [File: Heng Sinith/AP Photo]
CNRP leader Kem Sokha greets supporters on the last day of campaigning ahead of local elections in 2017. He was detained a few months later and remains under house arrest [File: Heng Sinith/AP Photo]

MORE ON CAMBODIA

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – Nol Puthearith was a security guard at the headquarters of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), and continued to watch over the building in the Cambodian capital even after the main opposition party itself was forcibly dissolved by the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Chinese investment brings casinos to Cambodia (2:34)

Last month, he was attacked by a group of strangers.

“They beat me until I was unconscious,” said Puthearith, who has supported the opposition and acted as a bodyguard for party leaders since the late 1990s. “I have no idea who they are and I can’t identify them.”

A week after the April 13 attack in Phnom Penh, another opposition member named Tith Rorn was taken to a police station in Kampong Cham province for questioning over a crime that had taken place more than a decade ago.

Cambodian court issues arrest warrants for top opposition leaders

While not directly related, the two events are part of what some observers see as a pattern of ongoing abuse and intimidation against political opponents of Hun Sen, exacerbated by a recent threat by the European Union to cancel its preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) trade agreement with Cambodia over its human rights record.

Hun Sen has accused the EU of holding Cambodia hostage and warned that he would renew his crackdown on the opposition if Europe did not relent.

Lee Morgenbesser, author of Behind the Facade: Elections under Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia, said that while the CNRP is officially disbanded, the government still fears its influence because its supporters have been driven underground.

“Hun Sen’s government has eliminated the threat of the CNRP at the national level, but it has much work to do at the local level,” he explained. “The problem for Hun Sen now is identifying who to repress, how to repress them and when to repress them.”

The CNRP’s leader Kem Sokha remains under house arrest after he was detained at the end of 2017 and accused of treason.

The party itself, which came a close second in the 2013 national elections and in the 2017 local polls, was dissolved two years ago on spurious allegations of attempted revolution aided by the United States. The move ensured that Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) secured every one of the 125 seats in the National Assembly in last year’s election.

Although there was a relaxation of political repression after the polls and many political prisoners were released, including 14 members of the CNRP, the attacks on opposition supporters have now resumed.

CNRP member Kong Mas, who supported cancelling the EBA, was arrested for incitement in January.


Tith Rorn, a supporter of Cambodia’s opposition CNRP who was detained over a fight that happened 13 years ago and died in mysterious circumstances in prison three days later [Al Jazeera]

Beatings, assaults

At least three individuals, including Puthearith, have been assaulted in cases the party claims are politically motivated since March.

Rorn, the CNRP coordinator, was arrested on April 15 over a fight with a pro-government activist that took place 13 years ago, well beyond the statute of limitations. He later died in prison.READ MORE

Trick or real? CNRP split over Cambodia move to ease politics ban

After the altercation, Rorn fled to Anlong Veng near the Thai border but came home from time to time. He had been living in the village for about a year when the police came for him.

“On the second day of Khmer New Year at 7:30 in the morning, police came and said they needed to take him for questioning,” his father, Eam Tita, a provincial coordinator for the CNRP in Kampong Cham, told Al Jazeera from an undisclosed location.

“After they took him for questioning, he never came back and three days later police told my neighbour that my son had died.”

As he spoke, his eyes filled with tears.

The family said they were told by prison officials that Rorn had a seizure, hit his head and died – but they dispute the story. According to Tita, Rorn had no history of epilepsy and his injuries did not seem consistent with a seizure.

“There were bruises all over his body like he had been beaten and his neck was broken,” Tita said. The family was unable to get a doctor to do an official autopsy, because doctors in the area were too scared to get involved.

After the funeral, Tita fled the village. He said police had come looking for him at his home on two occasions.

“I am scared but I want to tell the truth and I want justice,” he said.


Popular opposition figure Sin Rozeth takes a selfie with a supporter after being interrogated for more than four hours by a provincial court in Battambang [Andrew Nachemson/Al Jazeera]

Strengthening grip

On May 10, Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a group of MPs from around Southeast Asia, called for an independent investigation into Rorn’s death. In a statement, the group urged the Cambodian government to stop targeting members of the opposition.

“The continued attacks on the opposition shows that the government has no interest in meaningful dialogue, but is only concerned with strengthening its own grip on power,” said Charles Santiago, APHR chairman and a Malaysian MP, said in the statement.

Last week, the US State Department also released a statement expressing concern and calling for an investigation, as well as for the release of Kem Sokha.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur, Rhona Smith, has also expressed worry, noting “few tangible improvements” in the political environment.

“I remain concerned that pressure on former members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party continue unabated,” she said in a press conference at the end of a fact-finding mission on May 9.

Puthearith, the security guard, fled to Thailand after he was attacked, but he says colleagues informed him that police have come looking for him three times. He fears he might be permanently detained or worse.

“I’m very concerned for my safety, that’s why I fled Cambodia. What happened to me is politically motivated because I didn’t know those people and I also don’t have any conflict with anyone,” Puthearith said.


Smith: ‘I remain concerned that pressure on former members of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party continue unabated’ [Heng Sinith/AP Photo]

‘Seek refugee status, not a problem’

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Hun Sen Dares Critics, Within and Without, to Challenge Him

The message, once again, was clear: If you want to fight me, let’s fight.

The silence from the military has spoken for itself, at least for now.

Still the premier’s hubristic style in the face of challenge only masks the unenviable position that has necessitated it. The two most lucrative markets for Cambodia’s limited exports remain under threat unless he quickly changes tack — or if E.U. and U.S. officials back down from their threats in the face of his daring recalcitrance.

Others in his party, on the other hand, may only be biding their time and waiting to see if he does anything to undermine his patient plans for a succession.

There is also a tension in his willingness to risk economic ruin amid diminishing exports at the same time he seeks to place his son at the head of a party long promoted as the home for the country’s businesspeople and those who do not “rock the boat.”

Op-Ed: VOD in English on Hun Sen Dares Critics, Within and Without, to Challenge Him

Prime Minister Hun Sen attended the 20-year anniversary of RCAF on January 24, 2019. (Photo/Courtesy of Facebook PM)

NEWS ANALYSIS

In his gravest moments of weakness, Prime Minister Hun Sen has never shied from daring his challengers to a fight.

From asking rival military forces to return in 1991 to ensuring ruling party rival Chea Sim visited Bangkok in 2004 for “medical care,” Hun Sen has made an art out of cloaking creeping fragility within a haze of dramatic displays of defiant cockiness.

The strategy has repeatedly paid dividends, with the prime minister most notably turning the July 1997 “coup d’etat” into the July 1998 “Miracle on the Mekong” election — as well as mounting protests against his rule in 2013 by the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) into 2014’s “culture of dialogue.”

It is an aggression that gets results. Feeling his weight forced onto his back foot, Hun Sen’s response has been the same: If you want to fight me, let’s fight.

So too again now that the European Union and U.S. threaten to revoke Cambodia’s tariff-free access to their large markets — which buy two-thirds of the country’s exports through the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) and Generalized Systems of Privileges (GSP) schemes — if he does not reverse a descent into despotism.

As head of a regime that has long buttressed its legitimacy in economic development, a less experienced leader might be compelled to offer a brief display of contrition and flexibility when faced with the serious threat of economic damage.

For one, the recent fact-finding trip of the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Rhona Smith, to Cambodia for almost two weeks this month may have been seized as an opportunity to display a move back toward democracy.

Not so for Hun Sen, now in his 35th year of power.

On the contrary, in a move seemingly scheduled to coincide with the arrival of a U.N. official, whose opinions will undoubtedly influence decisions made by the E.U. and U.S. over the rest of the year, Hun Sen’s government dug in its heels.

Hence while Smith was winding up her trip to Phnom Penh on May 8 and 9, on the other side of Cambodia the Battambang Provincial Court was busily compelling more than 20 former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) figures to court on claims they were illegally cavorting over cold noodles.

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សមាជិកព្រឹទ្ធសភាអាមេរិក ស្នើច្បាប់ជំរុញការអនុវត្តកិច្ចព្រមព្រៀងសន្តិភាពទីក្រុងប៉ារីស

សមាជិកព្រឹទ្ធសភាអាមេរិក ស្នើច្បាប់ជំរុញការអនុវត្តកិច្ចព្រមព្រៀងសន្តិភាពទីក្រុងប៉ារីស

Op-Ed: RFA

លោក មួង ណារ៉េត
2019-05-21

រូបពីឆ្វេងទៅស្តាំ៖ សមាជិកព្រឹទ្ធសភាអាមេរិកលោក លិនស៊ី ហ្ក្រាហែម (Linsey Graham) លោក ឌិក ឌើប៊ិន (Dick Durbin) និង លោក ម៉ាកូ រូប៊ីអូ (Marco Rubio)

រូបពីឆ្វេងទៅស្តាំ៖ សមាជិកព្រឹទ្ធសភាអាមេរិកលោក លិនស៊ី ហ្ក្រាហែម (Linsey Graham) លោក ឌិក ឌើប៊ិន (Dick Durbin) និង លោក ម៉ាកូ រូប៊ីអូ (Marco Rubio)គេហទំព័ររបស់ព្រឹទ្ធសភាអាមេរិក

សមាជិកព្រឹទ្ធសភាអាមេរិកបីរូប រួមគ្នាស្នើច្បាប់ថ្មីមួយ ដើម្បីគាំទ្រការអនុវត្តកិច្ចព្រមព្រៀងសន្តិភាពទីក្រុងប៉ារីស ឲ្យបានពេញលេញ។ សេចក្តីស្នើច្បាប់នេះ ត្រូវដាក់ស្នើ កាលពីថ្ងៃទី ១៤ ខែ ឧសភា តែទើបតែត្រូវបានលេចចេញជាសាធារណ: នៅថ្ងៃនេះ។

សមាជិកព្រឹទ្ធសភាទាំងបីរូបនោះ មួយរូបមកពីខាងគណបក្សសាធារណរដ្ឋលោក លិនស៊ី ហ្ក្រាហែម (Linsey Graham) ជាអ្នកផ្តួចផ្តើមស្នើច្បាប់នេះ និង គាំទ្រដោយសមាជិកព្រឹទ្ធសភាអាមេរិកពីររូបទៀត គឺលោក ឌិក ឌើប៊ិន (Dick Durbin) ខាងគណបក្សប្រជាធិបតេយ្យ និង លោក ម៉ាកូ រូប៊ីអូ (Marco Rubio) ខាងគណបក្សសាធារណរដ្ឋ។

ច្បាប់ថ្មីនេះ មានឈ្មោះថា S.1468 ដែលទាមទារឲ្យរបបលោក ហ៊ុន សែន ចាត់វិធានការ ឲ្យមានប្រសិទ្ធភាព ដើម្បីការពារសន្តិសុខក្នុងតំបន់ ការពារអធិបតេយ្យភាពរបស់កម្ពុជា កុំឲ្យលុះតាមឥទ្ធិពលរបស់ចិនកុម្មុយនីស្ត និងធ្វើយ៉ាងណាឲ្យកម្ពុជា គោរពសិទ្ធិរបស់ពលរដ្ឋខ្មែរ និងការទទួលខុសត្រូវ ដូចដែលមានចែងក្នុងរដ្ឋធម្មនុញ្ញកម្ពុជា។

Continue reading “សមាជិកព្រឹទ្ធសភាអាមេរិក ស្នើច្បាប់ជំរុញការអនុវត្តកិច្ចព្រមព្រៀងសន្តិភាពទីក្រុងប៉ារីស”
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The injustice of Cambodian justice

Police are underpaid and short-staffed, while Cambodia’s patronage-based bureaucracy means that people tend to be promoted based on alliances, not competency or integrity.

According to the National Police, 2,969 crimes were committed last year, up from 2,817 in 2017. The number stands in contrast to the nation’s bulging prison population, however.

In November, Interior Minister Sar Kheng revealed that there were 31,008 inmates in Cambodia’s 28 prisons, of which almost 72% were being held in pre-trial detention.

That means there are roughly 190 prisoners per every 100,000 people, a bigger proportion than in most other Southeast Asian nations, and higher as a percentage than even authoritarian China.

The prison population has ballooned in recent years after the government launched in 2017 an anti-drug crackdown, similar in tone but not atrocity to the one Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has championed. As a result, the number of inmates rose by 30% in 2017 alone, mostly for drug-related offenses.

CRIME MAY 17, 2019

Op-Ed: Asia Time

The injustice of Cambodian justice

Cambodian police man a barricade outside a prison in Trapaing Phlong in Tbong Khmum province on September 11, 2017. Photo: AFP / Stringer

The injustice of Cambodian justice

The government aims to appear tough on crime, seen in a bulging prison population, but ranked second worst worldwide on a recent rule of law index

ByDAVID HUTT, PHNOM PENH

Ask any Cambodian about the key issues facing their country and chances are that crime will be near the top of the list. But on nearly all counts, the country’s justice system is failing.

According to the National Police, 2,969 crimes were committed last year, up from 2,817 in 2017. The number stands in contrast to the nation’s bulging prison population, however.

In November, Interior Minister Sar Kheng revealed that there were 31,008 inmates in Cambodia’s 28 prisons, of which almost 72% were being held in pre-trial detention.

That means there are roughly 190 prisoners per every 100,000 people, a bigger proportion than in most other Southeast Asian nations, and higher as a percentage than even authoritarian China.

The prison population has ballooned in recent years after the government launched in 2017 an anti-drug crackdown, similar in tone but not atrocity to the one Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has championed. As a result, the number of inmates rose by 30% in 2017 alone, mostly for drug-related offenses.

The problem is bigger than drugs, though. The Cambodia Socio-Economic Survey 2016, carried out by the Ministry of Planning’s National Institute of Statistics, found that 5% of surveyed households were victims of property crimes, such as theft and burglary.

Prisoners held at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison in a file photo. Photo: Facebook

But anecdotal evidence suggests that almost all petty crime goes unreported to the police. A 2014 United National Development Program report on sexual violence even found that the vast majority of women and men rape victims never report the crime.

“People do not trust law implementation and the justice system in Cambodia,” said Noan Sereiboth, a political blogger and frequent contributor to the youth-centered group Politikoffee.

In recent months, the government has tried to be seen as tackling higher-level crimes.

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