Cambodia has come second to bottom in an index of 113 countries ranked according to rule of law.
The World Justice Project (WJP), a non-governmental research group, ranked Cambodia one spot above Venezuela, a country in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, in its Rule of Law Index in late January.
In the East Asia and the Pacific region, Cambodia came in last place out of 15 countries included in the report, and last in the group of 30 lower-middle income countries.
The index looks at factors including constraints on government powers, corruption, open government, fundamental rights and access to criminal justice.
“Effective rule of law is the foundation for communities of equity, opportunity, and peace,” William H. Neukom, WJP founder and CEO, was quoted as saying in a statement.
“No country has achieved a perfect realization of the rule of law. The WJP Rule of Law Index is intended to be a first step in setting benchmarks, informing reforms, stimulating programs, and deepening appreciation and understanding for the foundational importance of the rule of law,” he added.
The top three performers in the index were Denmark, Norway and Finland, while at the lower end of the spectrum Afghanistan placed above Cambodia, which was followed by Venezuela in last place.
“Globally, a majority of countries worldwide saw their scores decline since the publication of the last WJP Rule of Law Index (in October 2016) in the areas of human rights, checks on government powers, and civil and criminal justice,” the WJP statement said.
The report comes amid a months-long government crackdown on dissent that has seen the country’s main opposition party dissolved and its leader jailed on treason charges, as well as independent media, activists and civil society groups targeted by the courts and security services.
Chin Malin, justice ministry spokesman, could not be reached. Sok Eysan, ruling party spokesman, dismissed the report’s findings.
“We, in the name of Cambodians, don’t care about the figure of 100 or 200. We don’t accept that. The important thing is about the real situation in Cambodia. If they say that human rights severely declined, it is not true,” he said.