PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA —
An annual report by the US-based Freedom House has said that 2016 marked the 11th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. Cambodia was among those countries ranked “not free” by the group.
Of the 195 countries assessed, 87 were rated “free”, 59 were “partly free”, and 49 rated “not free”.
Among Asian countries joining Cambodia as “not free” were Laos and Vietnam.
In 2016, Cambodia scored 32 out of 100,with a one-point drop recorded in 2017.
Thida Khus, director of Silaka, an NGO that monitors public policy, said detaining human rights defenders and using the judicial system to silence opposition voices were reasons behind the lower score this year.
“Lately, political tension is high, for example, filing a complaint among politicians over defamation cases makes people dare not to express their ideas.”
In past years, Freedom House looked into the passing of a controversial NGO law by parliament, the detention of human rights defenders and senior opposition officials, and attacks on the media.
However, government spokesman Phay Siphan said the report had a “hidden agenda” and did not demonstrate “the truth and reality in Cambodia.”
“We’re not interested in such a report. It’s just a so-called ‘devastation’ report,” he told VOA on Thursday.
There were setbacks in political rights, civil liberties, or both, in a number of countries rated “free” by the report, including Denmark’s restriction on immigrant and refugee rights, and the United States’ uncertainty over President Donald Trump’s administration.
Whereas, the Philippines’ drugs war, which killed thousand in 2016, was also one noted as another setbacks.