U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Cambodia
|Publisher||United States Department of State|
|Publication Date||30 January 1998|
|Cite as||United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1997 - Cambodia, 30 January 1998, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa8314.html [accessed 1 August 2015]|
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998.
CAMBODIACambodia's fourth year under democratic rule was disrupted by political violence that undermined the principles of the 1991 Paris peace agreements, led to over 100 deaths, and cast serious doubt on the representative nature of the Government. Following the signing of the agreements in 1991, United Nations-sponsored elections in 1993 produced a coalition government composed primarily of the royalist FUNCINPEC (National United Front for a Neutral, Peaceful, Cooperative, and Independent Cambodia) party, which won the plurality of votes in the 1993 elections, and the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which had ruled the country since the defeat of the Khmer Rouge by the Vietnamese army in 1979. On July 5 and 6, this coalition collapsed after months of escalating political tensions and partisan violence, when forces loyal to Second Prime Minister Hun Sen of the CPP defeated FUNCINPEC forces loyal to First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Prince Ranariddh in Phnom Penh. The CPP's decisive military victory ousted Ranariddh from power. The fighting was followed by a period in which CPP militants sought out additional FUNCINPEC security and political officials, some of whom they executed and others they detained. In a campaign of fear and intimidation throughout many parts of the country, CPP personnel searched many homes and offices and detained numerous FUNCINPEC members. This led to widespread flight by other FUNCINPEC personnel who feared further retaliation. Some leading FUNCINPEC politicians and other politicians allied with FUNCINPEC joined Prince Ranariddh, who had left the country just before the fighting began, in self-imposed exile abroad. In a process flawed by political intimidation, remaining National Assembly members in August approved the choice of Foreign Minister Ung Huot (FUNCINPEC) to replace Prince Ranariddh as First Prime Minister. King Norodom Sihanouk remains the constitutional monarch and Head of State. Most power lies within the executive branch; the National Assembly does not offer a significant check to executive power, and the judiciary is not independent. Although seriously weakened following massive defections in 1996, the Khmer Rouge continued to wage a mostly low level guerrilla insurgency against the Government. FUNCINPEC-led negotiations nearly succeeded in securing the defection of the remaining Khmer Rouge forces to the FUNCINPEC side by June, exacerbating political tensions with the CPP. Since the July violence, Khmer Rouge troops have cooperated with resistance forces loyal to FUNCINPEC against government troops in the northwest. Internal Khmer Rouge dissent appeared to increase. In June top official Son Sen was killed during a internal Khmer Rouge purge and Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot was purportedly subjected to a trial in July by a rival Khmer Rouge faction. The police have primary responsibility for internal security, but the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), including the military police, also have domestic security responsibilities. Government efforts to improve police and RCAF performance were hampered by political factionalism within the forces and by budgetary limitations. Members of the security forces committed numerous human rights abuses. Cambodia has a market economy in which approximately 80 percent of the population of 10 million engage in subsistence farming, with rice as the principal crop. Annual per capita gross domestic product is approximately $300. Foreign aid is an important component of national income. Economic growth stalled following the July violence, with decreases in business and tourist activity. The human rights situation deteriorated markedly during and after the July fighting. Military and police personnel were responsible for at least 55 extrajudicial killings in connection with the violence. In addition 16 persons were killed and more than 100 wounded in a grenade attack in March by unknown persons on an opposition political rally. No one was officially charged. There were credible reports that members of the security forces tortured, beat, and killed some detainees held after the events in July. The Government rarely prosecuted members of the security forces for human rights abuses. Prison conditions declined from already poor levels. Arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, and infringement on citizens' privacy rights were serious problems, particularly during the July fighting and in the month that followed. Political factions engaged in violent attacks against journalists and intimidation of the opposition. An atmosphere of political intimidation prompted a number of the Government's opponents to flee the country, go into hiding, or exercise self-censorship. The Government lacked the political will and the resources to act effectively against persons, particularly members of the military services, suspected of being responsible for human rights abuses. Democratic institutions, especially the judiciary, remain weak. The judiciary is subject to influence by the executive branch, and is marred by inefficiency, a lack of training, a shortage of resources, and corruption related to low wages. Politically related crimes were rarely brought to court. Citizens were effectively denied the right to a fair trial. Some detainees underwent particularly egregious violations of the protections against arbitrary detention. The Government sometimes limits press freedom and fear of Government-directed violence against the press created a climate that encouraged self-censorship by some journalists. The number of newspapers critical of the Government decreased immediately after the July violence, although the number later increased and at year's end exceeded the pre-July level. Some newspapers that continued to publish muted their editorial views. A prominent opposition party, the Khmer Nation Party (KNP), was subjected to a grenade attack in March. The Government limited freedom of assembly. Domestic violence against women and abuse of children are common. The ethnic Vietnamese minority faced widespread social discrimination and some acts of violence by the Khmer Rouge; people with disabilities also faced discrimination. The Government does not adequately enforce existing legal provisions against antiunion discrimination. Forced labor, including forced labor by children, is a problem. Citizens living in areas controlled by the Khmer Rouge were denied virtually all political rights and were subject to serious abuses by its leadership. Khmer Rouge forces committed numerous extrajudicial killings and were responsible for disappearances, forced labor, and restriction of freedom of speech, the press, assembly, association, religion, and movement.