The human rights situation in Cambodia has severely deteriorated since the last national election in 2018, Amnesty International’s interim Deputy Regional Director for Research Montse Ferrer said today, ahead of Sunday polls expected to be dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party after the sole viable opposition group was blocked from participating.
“Authorities in Cambodia have spent the past five years picking apart what’s left of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. There is a growing crackdown on human rights in Cambodia. Many people feel that they are being forced to participate in this election despite their party of choice not being on the ballot.
“Under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership, authorities have shut down or heaped pressure on independent news outlets; harassed, intimidated, beaten and jailed political opponents in mass trials; and restricted the rights of candidates to form political parties and contest the vote. Opposition party activists have been attacked in the streets with metal batons on multiple occasions, with one political activist stabbed to death in public in 2021 in what many believe to have been a targeted attack.
“Hun Sen has led calls for violence, as seen in a video livestreamed from his official Facebook account in January, that resulted in attacks against political opponents, prompting Meta’s Oversight Board to order the removal of the video and recommend the immediate suspension of the prime minister’s official account for six months.
“Human rights repression has dramatically escalated in the years since the last national elections. Authorities used the Covid-19 pandemic to further stifle human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, with journalists, human rights defenders and government critics targeted for having opposing views.
“The attempt to form and register the new opposition Candlelight Party was quickly quashed in what amounted to a politically motivated decision to not allow their registration. Several Candlelight Party members have been arbitrarily detained and some have been sentenced to years in prison on trumped up charges. In the lead-up to the elections, new regulations came into force aimed at punishing people that called for boycotting the vote, making a further mockery of the right to freedom of expression.
“Cambodian authorities must immediately drop all politically motivated and bogus charges against members of the Candlelight Party, former opposition leader of the dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party Kem Sokha, unionist Chhim Sithar and her colleagues as well as anyone jailed solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Authorities must immediately stop using the court system as a tool to suppress peaceful dissent and halt the ongoing crackdown against independent news outlets and journalists.”
This Sunday, Cambodia is holding its seventh general election since a United Nations-administered vote in 1993. The Cambodian People’s Party is widely expected to sweep all seats, as it did in 2018 in a vote widely seen as unfair by election monitors. All of Amnesty International’s work on Cambodia, including research, press releases and other country-specific outputs, can be found on our website here.
Amnesty international is a global human rights movement, independent of any government, political ideology or economic interest. Raising concerns about human rights violations against individual candidates, members or supporters of a political party or advocates of a particular political position does not imply that Amnesty International supports that party or candidate’s platform.