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Human Rights Watch Calls on Donors To Pressure Cambodia

Cambodian human rights activists march to mark the International Human Rights Day in Phnom Penh, file photo.
Cambodian human rights activists march to mark the International Human Rights Day in Phnom Penh, file photo.

Human Rights Watch says the international community needs to do more to pressure Cambodia to improve its rights record.

Cambodia went before the UN Human Rights Council June 26, where officials rejected four of 205 rights recommendations made earlier this year.

“Faced with an upsurge in demands for fundamental changes to ensure respect for human rights, the government of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has instead dug in his heels,” Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “The international community should not acquiesce to the Cambodian government’s use of political violence, imprisonment of opponents on politically motivated charges, torture, and restrictions on free speech and public assembly.”

Cambodia is heavily dependent on aid. From 1993 to 2012, it received $10 billion in aid and loans from foreign countries and development partners.

But it has received little pressure in recent years to improve its rights record, which human rights workers say is backsliding.

The US provides around $70 million in aid to Cambodia each year, promoting human rights, education, agriculture and good governance.

US Embassy spokesman Sean McIntosh told VOA Khmer by e-mail the US continues to prioritize democracy and human rights in Cambodia. “We have raised human rights issues and will continue to raise them at the highest levels of the Royal Government of Cambodia,” he said.

Two major donors—the European Union and Japan—did not respond to requests for comment.

While it does not provide significant aid to Cambodia, Indonesia was instrumental in Cambodia’s peace negotiations in the 1980s and 1990s.

Muhsinin Dolisada, first secretariat at Indonesian Embassy in Phnom Penh, says Asean has a human rights body, but individual countries don’t typical pressure each other on their affairs.

“For us, like other Asean countries, I think we don’t pressure, or we don’t want to interfere about human rights conduct in Cambodia, because I think we can talk it through the Asean framework,” he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan dismissed the Human Rights Watch statement.

“This is just a group,” he said. “We don’t deem it as an institution. The request to donors to cut aid to Cambodia is looking down on the decisions of development partners.”