Government officials have rejected the findings of an annual rights report released by Human Rights Watch on Wednesday, saying the U.S.-based group was only looking to create disturbances in Cambodia.
Human Rights Watch released its global assessment of human rights violations on Wednesday, with the Cambodia section pointing to severe decline in the country’s rights record. The five-page section highlights how the dissolving of the opposition and the creation of a one-party parliament after the 2018 election has exacerbated the curtailment of human rights.
The report said there had been an increase in political prisoners, which is linked to the criminalizing of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party, forcing its supporters and activists to live in fear or flee the country.
“Authorities criminalize involvement with the main opposition party, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP); 107 out of 118 senior CNRP politicians remained banned from engaging in politics for five years,” it added.
However, Justice Ministry spokesperson Chin Malin rejected the reports analysis outright, saying it was a “revenge” campaign by the rights group, not saying why Human Rights Watch wanted to take revenge against the government.
“We read all of their reports, meaning there is no legal basis to prove clearly about their claims besides releasing statements taking revenge against the government,” he said.
The report also noted the initiation of an investigation into the potential suspension of the European Union’s ‘Everything But Arms’ trade privileges, which is due in February. In its preliminary report, released in November, the EU pointed that there had been little improvement in the country’s rights record, and in some case it had gotten worse since the investigation was initiated.
Koy Kuong, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the Human Rights Watch report ignores the positive developments of Cambodia and the government was conveying these positives to the EU directly.
“It’s a habit for the Human Rights Watch that [has done this] in the past; it never talks good about us,” he said. “This is its habit.”
Government spokesperson Phay Siphan said that the government will not be made to be a “servant” of anyone, and will engage with the EU to deal with the investigation. However, Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at Licadho, said the government needed to work to restore democracy to protect Cambodians from losing their livelihoods – referring to potential job losses from the end of trade privileges.