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Amnesty International Report 1996 - Cambodia

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 1 January 1996
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1996 - Cambodia, 1 January 1996, available at: [accessed 25 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Seven prisoners of conscience were detained during the year. More than a dozen people were arrested on suspicion of links with an armed opposition group. The government prosecuted newspaper editors who published articles critical of the government; some might become prisoners of conscience. At least five people were illegally detained and tortured. At least 30 unarmed civilians were injured in political violence and at least two people were extrajudicially executed. Little progress was made in bringing perpetrators of past human rights violations to justice. An armed opposition group committed human rights abuses, including deliberate and arbitrary killings.

The civil war between the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) and the National Army of Democratic Kampuchea (NADK or Khmer Rouge) continued during the year, although hundreds of NADK troops defected to the government. The coalition government continued to be led by First Prime Minister Prince Krompreah Norodom Ranariddh, leader of the National United Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful and Cooperative Cambodia (FUNCINPEC), and Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, leader of the Cambodian People's Party (CPP). Prominent government critic and National Assembly member Sam Rainsy was expelled from FUNCINPEC in May, then from the National Assembly in June, on the grounds that he no longer belonged to the party for which he had been elected. He challenged the legality of his expulsion. Both Sam Rainsy and National Assembly members who supported him received death threats during the year. In November Sam Rainsy founded the Khmer Nation Party. The government declared the party illegal; some members were threatened. The smallest party in the government, the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP), split into two factions, led by Son Sann and Information Minister Ieng Mouly. The two Prime Ministers recognized Ieng Mouly's faction as the legitimate BLDP. In their July party congress, this faction expelled prominent Son Sann supporters, including five National Assembly members. They still sat in the National Assembly at the end of the year.

A new Press Law was passed by the National Assembly in July which falls short of international human rights standards. The law, which is broadly phrased, makes it an offence to publish any article which could affect "national security" or "political stability". It allows for the prosecution of journalists and editors under the criminal code, providing scope for the detention of prisoners of conscience.

The UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia submitted a report to the UN Commission on Human Rights in February condemning abuses committed by both NADK and government forces. In March the Commission adopted a resolution requesting that the Special Representative report to the Commission in 1996 and that the Centre for Human Rights continue its work in Cambodia. In March, the two Prime Ministers asked the UN Secretary-General to close the Office of the UN Centre for Human Rights in Cambodia and to have its mandate carried out from Geneva. The UN Secretary-General sent a Special Envoy to Cambodia in May to resolve the issue, and the two Prime Ministers agreed that the Office of the UN Centre for Human Rights could remain open. The UN Special Representative submitted a report to the UN General Assembly in November. The General Assembly adopted a resolution renewing the mandate of the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative and the Office of the UN Centre for Human Rights in Cambodia for another year.

Six prisoners of conscience were arrested in August. Four balloon sellers were arrested for attaching leaflets critical of the government and of FUNCINPEC to balloons in the capital, Phnom Penh. Son Yin, who hired the four men, was also arrested. The author of the leaflets, Sith Kosaing Sin, went to the police station seeking their release and was arrested. All six were transferred to prison, charged with "incitement not leading to the commission of a crime". In mid-September, following widespread criticism of the arrests and an appeal from King Norodom Sihanouk, the six were released and charges against them were dropped.

In October Heng At, a policeman in Kompong Cham province and a former FUNCINPEC member, was arrested at a restaurant by the bodyguards of a senior member of FUNCINPEC, after he allegedly made derogatory remarks about the royal family. Heng At and another man were taken by the bodyguards and Ministry of Interior police to a military police station, where Heng At was beaten, suffering cuts and severe facial bruising. The second man was released, but Heng At was transferred to the provincial prison. Six weeks later he was moved to the provincial Police Commissariat, where he remained detained without charge at the end of the year. He was a prisoner of conscience.

More than a dozen people were arrested during the year for alleged links with the NADK. Most were charged with membership of the armed opposition group, and some were sentenced to prison terms under a broadly phrased law banning the organization, which could be applied against any critic of the government (see Amnesty International Report 1995). In November Prince Norodom Sirivudh, half-brother of the King, FUNCINPEC Secretary-General, National Assembly member and government critic, was placed under house arrest for allegedly plotting to kill the Second Prime Minister. His parliamentary immunity was lifted and he was then detained in the Ministry of Interior and charged with several serious offences, including one under the anti-NADK legislation. Following the intervention of the King, Prince Sirivudh was exiled to France in December. Proceedings against him continued in absentia. At the same time, nine people were arrested in Phnom Penh apparently on suspicion of involvement with the NADK. All remained in detention at the end of the year.

The government prosecuted newspaper editors who published articles critical of the government. If their final appeals to the Supreme Court fail, they could become prisoners of conscience. For example, in May Hen Vipheak, editor of Serei Pheap Thmey (New Liberty News), was sentenced to one year in prison and a large fine for an article he had published. In October a mob attacked the offices of Serei Pheap Thmey, destroying property and injuring a staff member. The Second Prime Minister publicly defended the right of the attackers "to demonstrate" and offered to provide transport if they wished to exercise this right again. Hen Vipheak's sentence was upheld on first appeal. Chan Rotana, editor of Samleng Yuvachen Khmer (Voice of Khmer Youth), also faced a prison term for articles published in his newspaper. The previous editor of Samleng Yuvachen Khmer, Nuon Chan, was shot dead in November 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1995). Those responsible had not been brought to justice by the end of the year.

Four men were arbitrarily detained and tortured by RCAF soldiers in August. The four, including three of Sam Rainsy's bodyguards, were lured to the Ministry of Defence Research Department, arrested and beaten by between 30 and 40 soldiers. They were interrogated for 16 hours, threatened with violence and beaten with rifle butts before being released. The Defence Minister acknowledged the arrests had occurred, but denied the men had been tortured. No further action was taken by the government.

There was political violence against supporters of Son Sann's BLDP faction, gathered in Phnom Penh for a congress at his house on 1 October. On 30 September, two people on a motorcycle rolled a grenade which exploded into the crowd gathered at the house. A second grenade exploded at a Buddhist temple where many supporters were staying. At least 30 people were injured, some seriously. The meeting went ahead the next morning but was dispersed by heavily armed military police. In public statements several days earlier, Ieng Mouly and Hun Sen both mentioned the possibility of grenade attacks on Son Sann's supporters if the meeting was held. No one had been brought to justice for the attacks by the end of the year.

In February, two men were extrajudicially executed in Battambang province by members of the armed forces and police who accused them of having links with the NADK. Neth Thong and Mov Ving were playing volleyball at O'Krobou village, Mong Russei district, when about 30 soldiers, militia and police surrounded them and arrested them without a warrant. Relatives seeking their release were threatened with death. In the afternoon local people heard shots being fired. The bodies of Neth Thong and Mov Ving were found the next day; both had been shot dead, and appeared to have been severely beaten before they died. During the funeral, relatives were questioned by officials about why they were giving a funeral to Khmer Rouge members. A soldier and a policeman arrested in connection with the killings were released without charge. In August, three local militiamen were sentenced in absentia to 15 years' imprisonment and a large fine for the killings but none of them had been arrested by the end of the year.

In April Rueng Than, a young man with a mental handicap and speech impediment, was shot dead by a village militia man in Battambang province, after taking shelter under his house during a rainstorm. The perpetrator had not been arrested at the end of the year.

Little progress was made in bringing perpetrators of past human rights violations to justice. Approximately 12 members of the RCAF S-91 unit, responsible for an illegal detention centre at Cheu Kmau, Battambang province (see Amnesty International Report 1995), were in custody at the end of the year, but for unrelated offences. No member of the unit had been charged with offences committed at Cheu Kmau between 1992 and 1994, in spite of overwhelming evidence. A police lieutenant from Kompong Cham province, who was arrested and charged with the murder of journalist Chan Dara (see Amnesty International Report 1995), was acquitted and released in May. A warrant was issued for his rearrest weeks later, following the killing of a young man in Kompong Cham town; he had not been arrested by the end of the year. No one was brought to justice for the attacks in 1994 on ethnic Vietnamese Cambodians (see Amnesty International Report 1995).

The situation of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese Cambodians stranded on the border between Viet Nam and Cambodia since March 1993 (see Amnesty International Report 1994) was resolved when the government agreed to let them return home; most had done so by the end of the year.

The NADK was responsible for human rights abuses during the year, including deliberate and arbitrary killings of village elders. In a typical night attack in November at Bong Bey village, Battambang province, NADK soldiers seized Keh Ong, an elderly former teacher, from his house and shot and killed him. NADK soldiers also captured villagers in Battambang province, including young people helping with the rice harvest. Three young people gleaning rice in a remote area were captured by NADK soldiers in November. Their whereabouts were not known at the end of the year.

The NADK was also responsible for killing foreign nationals. In January it claimed responsibility for killing a tourist from the USA in Siem Reap province. Five former NADK soldiers who had defected to the government were charged with the murder in July. Also in July, another former NADK soldier was convicted of the murder of three westerners in April 1994. The three victims had been abducted on the road from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.

Among the reports Amnesty International issued during the year was Kingdom of Cambodia: Human rights and the new government, published in March. The report detailed human rights violations since the government came to power in 1993 and described cases of human rights abuses by NADK forces. An Amnesty International delegation visited the country in April and met the Head of State, King Norodom Sihanouk.

Later in the year, Amnesty International issued appeals for the safety of elected representatives, expressed concern about the Press Law and published a report, Cambodia: Human rights violated – government acts to silence critics, after the torture of four men in Phnom Penh. The organization appealed for the release of prisoners of conscience and expressed concern at the grenade attacks on BLDP supporters. In November Amnesty International asked the government to uphold Prince Sirivudh's right to a fair trial. There had been no official response to Amnesty International's letters and appeals by the end of the year.

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