Civic leaders called for “more space” for democracy, as well as judicial reform, on Wednesday, as they marked World Democracy Day.
Leaders from civil society called for more tolerance between the political majority and minorities. Political freedoms that were won in the 1980s, following the ouster of the Khmer Rouge, have been in decline, the leaders said.
“I take this opportunity to call [on the government] not to impose restrictions over democracy,” said Thun Saray, president of the rights group Adhoc and chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee.
“In Cambodia,” he said, “the acceptance of criticism is limited.”
Cheam Yiep, a lawmaker for the Cambodian People's Party, said freedom of expression in Cambodia has been “developed and reinforced.” He agreed with calls for tolerance between the parties, but added, “the minority party must do things based on law.”
The ruling government has come under increasing criticism for restrictions on freedoms in recent years. Last month, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders issued a report that found union leaders, rights activists and journalists facing rights violations and legal restrictions.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, a legal organization, said the government must urgently reform the judiciary with the help of the international community.
Cheam Yiep said the government is already doing that.