Officials and civil society groups this week offered starkly differing opinions on proposed legislation in the United States that could see its nearly $80 million aid program linked to human rights improvements in Cambodia.
If the bill becomes law it will see this aid tied explicitly to the government ending “violence, the harassment of civil society groups and the opposition party in Cambodia.”
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not think the United States was able to judge the state of human rights in Cambodia.
“Let’s discuss this clearly, why those people were jailed,” he said, referring to opposition members and supporters that have been imprisoned on charges rights groups claim are politically motivated. “What are the reasons? What are the facts? Why does the law need to be enforced and make its own judgments?”
Sok Eysan, a ruling Cambodian People’s Party spokesman, said the party welcomed the provision of aid from the United States but said he denied that the government and CPP had “harassed” the opposition.
“All the issues that happened in the past were not an act of harassment, but they were the result of offenses being committed by individuals in the CNRP,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at local rights group Licadho, said the tense political situation had coincided with deteriorating human rights.
“Therefore, the U.S. told us that if we want to obtain assistance, we must restore human rights respect as well as the resolution that could calm down the political issues,” he said.