The Cambodian government denied the findings of an annual Human Rights Watch report on Wednesday, claiming that unfounded criticism was now under the purview of the law.
“The Cambodian government tightened restrictions on fundamental freedoms in 2010, making it increasingly difficult and risky for human rights defenders, land rights activists, and trade unionists to operate,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement Tuesday, citing its annual “World Report.”
In 2010, the group said, “the Cambodian government increasingly ignored or dismissed human rights concerns of United Nations agencies and international donors that have made significant contributions to the country's budget for years. Instead, Prime Minister Hun Sen rebuked UN officials, threatening to expel the UN resident coordinator and the UN human rights office director in Phnom Penh.”
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Wednesday the Human Rights Watch findings were “untrue.”
Cambodia has a new penal code that allows for prosecution of groups like Human Rights Watch that criticize the government without evidence, he said.
“In the past, you would eat noodles for free, but now we charge you,” he said.
In its statement, Human Rights Watch said Cambodia’s new penal code “contains draconian and vaguely defined provisions that permit criminal prosecution for peaceful expression.”