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Democracy Narrowed in 2007, Group Says

The government has tightened its control over civil society in the past year, while the number of rights abuses has remained high, a group said Wednesday.

The freedom to organize and demonstrate has diminished, as has the right to life and security, the well-respected group, Adhoc, said in an annual report. In 2007, the group documented 574 personal or political rights abuses.

“While the political party in the coalition government has drifted apart and weakened, we see that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has almost controlled the power alone, and it began to tighten the freedom of expression in public,” said Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc.

“So, we have seen that the freedom of expression in public has become more and more tightened, compared to previous years,” he said. “Now that the CPP has ruled alone or shared little power with the coalition party, we are wondering how this will affect the democratic process, especially freedom of expression in public and the freedom of association.”

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith brushed aside the report.

“I don’t know if Adhoc is going to enter politics, as Kem Sokha has,” he said, referring to the president of the new Human Rights Party.

Cambodia had not declined in freedoms, he said, but was moving toward stronger rule of law.