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Laws Could Lead to ‘Undemocratic’ Elections, Human Rights Watch Says

Cambodian workers look through a partition of a construction site below a banner which reads "Where is my vote" as supporters of opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party gather in Phnom Penh, file photo.

Criticism of two draft laws aimed at reforming Cambodia’s electoral system continues to grow.

On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying the draft laws “violate basic human rights and democratic norms and should be substantially revised before being presented to the National Assembly for a vote.”

The draft laws are the result of months of negotiations between the ruling Cambodian People’s Party and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.

But they have been deeply criticized by pro-democracy and rights groups, who say some provisions will actually curb free speech and basic freedoms ahead of elections.

“Laws like these limiting freedom of expression, association and assembly will make it likely that any future Cambodian election is undemocratic,” Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “It’s hardly surprising that the CPP proposed these provisions, but the CNRP shares the blame for agreeing to criminalize and censor speech and limit the public’s right to hold campaign rallies.”

Chhim Phal Vorun, a CPP spokesman, dismissed the concerns, saying Human Rights Watch “does not respect the will of the Cambodian people.”