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Little Progress in Democracy: Rights Groups

Cambodia's political system has not moved closer to true democracy, international human rights leaders and political candidates say.

The Cambodian People's Party has strict control over state media, the courts, the bar association and the National Election Committee, said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

The July 27 election "is not competitive," Adams said. "Of course the CPP is going to win, and I think there is quite a lot of dissolution among Cambodian voters…. A lot of young people in particular think that there is no point to be involved in politics."

Om Yentieng, a permanent member of the CPP's central committee and a senior adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, objected.

"He doesn't love the Cambodian people more than the Cambodian people, and what he said is not for Cambodia’s benefit," Om Yentieng said of Adams. "He only speaks from abroad. He has white skin, [and] his democracy is older than Cambodia's, so he should not do what we call bad pretending on this issue.

"When millions of voters listen to his speech, they can judge whether it is true or not true, so that he should not destroy a wonderful democratic legacy," Om Yentieng said. "Democracy in Cambodia is getting better."

Not everyone believe Cambodia's democracy has shown progress, including political leaders competing in the upcoming election.

Human Rights Party President Kem Sokha said Cambodia's democratic process was weak and slow.

"Ten days into the election campaign, we have seen so many problems happening to us, such as the pulling down of many non-ruling party political signs," he said. "One of our activists was killed in Kampong Cham province, and there has also been physical abuse of our activists."

Katie Redford, co-founder of the Washington-based Earth Rights International, told VOA Khmer the election process in Cambodia was not yet moving toward democracy.

Cambodia's political system had not moved in the direction of democracy and transparency, she said, "but really in the direction of corruption and one-party rule."

"I think that the upcoming election is going to reflect that trend," she said.