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Democracy, Freedoms Continue Backslide: Rights Activist


Ou Virak, who is the head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” that Cambodia was looking more and more like China or Vietnam.

Ou Virak, who is the head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” that Cambodia was looking more and more like China or Vietnam.

Cambodia is increasingly headed toward a unilateral party system of government and backslides in democracy, a leading rights researcher said Thursday.

Ou Virak, who is the head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, told “Hello VOA” that Cambodia was looking more and more like China or Vietnam, with the space for democratic freedoms shrinking.

Rights of expression, assembly, land, fair trial and others have eroded in recent years, he said, while human trafficking and sexual exploitation remain problematic.

Ou Virak's comments followed pressure from Cambodia to the UN to close its local rights office in Phnom Penh. Prime Minister Hun Sen told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during talks in Phnom Penh this week he wanted the head of the UN's rights office here sacked.

However, this is a “UN internal issue,” Ou Virak said. “It's not possible for a country to suggest the firing of someone, such as the case in Cambodia.”

To suggest as much was a “lack of diplomacy on the international stage, and made Cambodia shameful at the international level,” he said.

The UN rights office exists here per an agreement between Cambodia and the UN, stemming from the period of Untac peacekeeping in the 1990s. At the same time, Ou Virak said, Cambodia agreed to improve its human rights, as part of the peace agreements.

Ou Virak is on a two-week trip to the US, where he met with senior State Department officials and representatives of Congress to discuss Cambodia's human rights' situation.

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