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Human Rights Watch Criticizes PM Hun Sen on His Crackdown on Dissent

The New York-based Human Rights watch, in a statement which VOA receives Wednesday, criticizes Prime Minister Hun Sen for his crackdown measure on activists and dissent, and appeals to the government for their release, the withdrawal of all arrest warrants and the end of the climate of intimidation against them.

Mr. Mam Sonando, director of Beehive Radio FM 105, and Mr. Rong Chhun, Cambodia Watchdog Council member and also president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, were detained and imprisoned.

It also said that the government is looking for Prince Sisowath Thomico, former secretary of former King Sihanouk, after issuing threats to use the court for his arrest.

Mr. Brad Adams, Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, criticizes the government's measures, saying it is a violation of the activists' right to the freedom of speech and the freedom of dissent. He appeals to " the donor countries and embassies to make it clear to Mr. Hun Sen that they will not tolerate the reversal of the important strides made in basic human rights during the last decade".

Mr. Khieu Kanharith, government spokesman and Minister of Information said that Human Rights Organizations should reflect about the activists' opinions whether or not they are right or wrong. He said that the Human Rights officials do not speak Khmer. He adds that these expressions of opinion go beyond criticisms, and point toward an act of treason. He said that the activists charge the government of selling Khmer territory to Vietnam, which is a very serious change indeed.

This might incite people to create a movement to topple the government by using armed forces. He said further that Cambodia is implementing the rule of law.

The US Embassy in Phnom Penh strongly supports the human rights and freedom of the press and the freedom of speech. Local lawyers criticize the government for not implementing the law by issuing an arrest warrant first but instead arrest or detain those who express their opinions before the defendants have a chance to clarify in court.

There has not been any reaction from the donor countries on the government's controversial activities.