Amnesty International Report 1999 - Cambodia
|Publication Date||1 January 1999|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 1999 - Cambodia, 1 January 1999, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa0a1c.html [accessed 19 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
Scores of demonstrators were arrested during a government crack-down in September; most were prisoners of conscience. At least 11 other prisoners of conscience and possible prisoners of conscience were arrested during the year. Five people, including one who had been extrajudicially executed in 1997, were unfairly tried in absentia and sentenced to long prison terms. Torture in police custody and prison conditions amounting to ill-treatment were widespread. Dozens of people remained unaccounted for following the September crack-down. Dozens of people were extrajudicially executed. An armed opposition group committed human rights abuses, including deliberate and arbitrary killings.
Intensive diplomatic efforts to normalize the political situation following the July 1997 coup (see Amnesty International Report 1998) continued. Government troops and forces loyal to ousted First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh declared a cease-fire in February, following the acceptance of a Japanese-brokered peace plan. The so-called "four pillars initiative" allowed exiled politicians to return home to participate in the July elections, but lacked any measures for human rights protection. By the end of March Prince Ranariddh and many other exiled politicians had returned to Cambodia.
General elections in July resulted in a declared victory for the Cambodian People's Party (CPP). Prince Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC party came second and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) third. FUNCINPEC, the SRP and other smaller parties disputed the results and alleged widespread fraud. Mass demonstrations in the capital, Phnom Penh, were violently dispersed by the security forces. Talks initiated by King Norodom Sihanouk led to the formation of a CPP-FUNCINPEC government in November. The agreement will require substantial constitutional changes. The government imposed a travel ban on newly elected National Assembly members until after the swearing-in ceremony in September. Many left the country immediately afterwards in fear for their safety.
The Supreme Council of Magistracy and the Constitutional Council were finally convened, but were widely regarded as politically biased in favour of the CPP, as was the National Election Committee in charge of organizing the July elections.
In January the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights visited Cambodia and held talks with CPP Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. Agreement was reached on the continued presence in Cambodia of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for a further two years. The UN Special Representative on the situation of human rights in Cambodia submitted reports to the UN Commission on Human Rights in April and the UN General Assembly in November, condemning continuing government abuses and the ongoing impunity for human rights violators, including the leaders of the Khmer Rouge; both the Committee and the General Assembly adopted strong resolutions expressing grave concern about the ongoing government abuses and impunity. Cambodia's vacant seat at the UN was occupied by the representative of the new government.
Factionalism within the remnants of the Khmer Rouge political movement and armed forces continued during the first months of the year (see Amnesty International Report 1998), as did international efforts to bring to justice those responsible for serious human rights violations between 1975 and 1979. Former leader Pol Pot died in April. By the end of the year, most of the Khmer Rouge had defected to the government armed forces, which accepted all defectors, regardless of their alleged involvement in human rights abuses. In December Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea, two senior members of the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge government, defected to the government side. Prime Minister Hun Sen brought them to Phnom Penh for a visit and gave them government protection. In November a group of experts appointed following the UN General Assembly resolution in 1997 (see Amnesty International Report 1998) visited Cambodia to examine evidence about serious human rights violations in the country while the Khmer Rouge was in power.
Scores of people, possibly hundreds, were detained by the security forces in September following the violent crushing of opposition demonstrations. Most were arrested for the peaceful expression of their political views. Some were released after short periods in detention, but the fate and whereabouts of dozens of people remained unknown at the end of the year. The demonstrations began in August, led by Prince Ranariddh and Sam Rainsy, and attracted thousands of supporters. The vast majority of the demonstrations were peaceful, but in early September, four ethnic Vietnamese traders were beaten to death by angry mobs in the capital following a food poisoning outbreak. Some of those involved may also have attended the political demonstrations. Between 7 and 15 September, police and military police in Phnom Penh attacked demonstrators with electro-shock batons, filthy pressurized water and live ammunition, killing at least three people and injuring dozens of others, including Buddhist monks. Human rights workers discovered up to 25 bodies floating in the river or buried in shallow graves following the crack-down. Most showed signs of torture and apparent extrajudicial execution. The authorities denied that any of the bodies were linked to the violent crushing of the demonstrations. Human rights workers were subjected to death threats.
Seven prisoners of conscience were illegally detained throughout January in Koh Kong province. Two women FUNCINPEC members were arrested without a warrant by the Deputy Commander of the Provincial Military Forces. Both were held incommunicado and ill-treated at the Provincial Military Headquarters until intervention by the UN Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia secured their release, along with that of five other FUNCINPEC supporters.
Lim Pheng was arrested in June after shots were fired at the signpost for an SRP office located in his mother's house in Kampong Cham province. Although he had nothing to do with the shooting, he was unfairly tried and sentenced to one year's imprisonment for "illegal possession of weapons". Lim Pheng's arrest, trial and sentencing appeared to be motivated by his affiliation with the SRP; he was a possible prisoner of conscience.
Danh Teav, a FUNCINPEC employee at the Ministry of the Interior, and his wife, Ly Rosamy, an SRP election candidate, were arrested in July. She was released, but Danh Teav was held in incommunicado detention for 36 hours before Amnesty International delegates located him at the Municipal Court. He had been so badly beaten by the Phnom Penh Criminal Police that he could not stand without help (see below). The police had tried to make him confess to crimes including involvement in the attempted murder of a pro-government newspaper editor earlier in the year. After a brief court appearance, Danh Teav was returned to incommunicado detention for a further seven days and repeatedly denied access to a doctor despite his injuries. He was released without charge in October.
Kem Sokha, President of the 1993-1998 Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights and the Reception of Complaints, lost his seat in the July elections and went into hiding in late September, after then Second Prime Minister Hun Sen stated that he could face arrest for his part in the opposition protests after the election. Two summonses were issued for Kem Sokha to answer questions on different charges, including "damage to public property", "incitement leading to the commission of a crime", and "incitement not leading to the commission of a crime". Anti-Vietnamese rhetoric was a feature of many speeches during the demonstrations, but Kem Sokha intervened to stop demonstrators vandalising the Viet Nam-Cambodian Friendship Memorial. In December Kem Sokha appeared in court to answer questions. If arrested he would be a prisoner of conscience.
In December Kim San and Meas Minear, employees of a local human rights group, were arrested without warrants in Sihanoukville, following public rioting after toxic waste was found near the city. The two men were charged with robbery and damage to property; no trial had taken place by the end of the year. Both men were prisoners of conscience.
Prisoner of conscience Srun Vong Vannak was released in a royal amnesty in September. The amnesty did not overturn his conviction (see Amnesty International Report 1998).
In March the Military Court held two trials in absentia of Prince Norodom Ranariddh and his close associates General Nhek Bun Chhay, Serei Kosal, Thach Soung and the late Chao Sambath who was extrajudicially executed in July 1997 (see Amnesty International Report 1998). The trials were grossly unfair; no defence lawyers were present and court judgments bore little relation to the evidence presented. All five were found guilty of a number of crimes, including illegal importation of weapons and internal security offences, and sentenced to long prison terms. King Norodom Sihanouk granted a royal pardon to his son Prince Ranariddh, in accordance with the Japanese-brokered peace plan, thus allowing him to return home and take part in the elections. Pardons were granted to his co-defendants with the formation of the new government.
There were no impartial investigations or arrests in connection with the numerous human rights violations committed by the security forces in previous years, including scores of extrajudicial executions since the 1997 coup. A former member of the Khmer Rouge wanted in connection with the killings of three Western hostages in 1994 (see Amnesty International Report 1995) was arrested in August. He had not been tried by the end of the year.
Torture and ill-treatment by police were widespread. In April police beat demonstrators who had gathered in support of Prince Ranariddh. A UN human rights worker was beaten later that day by people including uniformed police in Phnom Penh. In July Amnesty International found five people handcuffed together with Danh Teav (see above) at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court. They had been beaten in police custody, were covered in cuts and bruises and had blood on their clothes. The handcuffs were so tight that their wrists were badly cut. They had no legal representation in court and did not know the charges against them.
Conditions in prisons were harsh. Lack of food contributed to serious health problems for inmates in most provincial prisons. Prolonged shackling of prisoners was reported in at least one provincial prison.
The fate and whereabouts of dozens of people missing after the crack-down on opposition demonstrators in September remained unknown at the end of the year. Eyewitnesses reported hundreds of arrests, but the authorities acknowledged only 22.
Dozens of extrajudicial executions were reported throughout the year. In February the wife, son and another relative of Captain Bun Sovanna were arrested in Banteay Meanchey province by government soldiers. The three were marched a short distance from their house and shot dead. Bun Sovanna had defected from his post in the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces to join the resistance loyal to Prince Ranariddh in July 1997. No investigation was carried out into the killings.
In March, during the first of the trials of Prince Ranariddh and his associates, Brigadier-General Thach Kim Sang, a senior FUNCINPEC official at the Ministry of the Interior, was killed in Phnom Penh. Before the 1997 coup, Thach Kim Sang was a close associate of General Nhek Bun Chhay. Thach Kim Sang feared for his life and had stopped going to his office. He was shot dead by two men dressed in police uniforms as he drove to a meeting with senior CPP officials. No investigation was carried out and no one was brought to justice.
In September, two opposition demonstrators were taken to the outskirts of Phnom Penh by plainclothes policemen and shot dead. Local people witnessed the killings. Only one body could be identified, the other had been shot so many times that his face was unrecognizable. Police claimed the two were "robbers fleeing the scene of a crime".
Khmer Rouge armed forces committed human rights abuses during the year, including deliberate and arbitrary killings. Khmer Rouge forces claimed responsibility for an attack on a fishing village in Kampong Chhnang province in April, in which 22 civilians were killed, including 12 ethnic Vietnamese. Khmer Rouge forces were also responsible for two attacks near Anlong Veng in July in which at least five people died, including civilians.
In March Amnesty International published a report, Kingdom of Cambodia: Human rights at stake, detailing political killings and intimidation since October 1997. At the UN Commission on Human Rights the organization called on member states to adopt a strong resolution on Cambodia, following the political violence during 1997. In August Second Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered all forces loyal to the CPP to stop harassing and intimidating opposition party activists, but in general there was no concrete response from the government to Amnesty International apart from public criticism of the organization's work.
During the demonstrations following the elections, Amnesty International called for restraint on all sides, and appealed to political leaders not to incite human rights abuses by using anti-Vietnamese rhetoric in their speeches. In September the organization published a report, Kingdom of Cambodia: Demonstrations crushed with excessive use of force, following the violent crack-down on opposition supporters in Phnom Penh. Throughout the year, Amnesty International criticized the government's harassment of human rights workers, including those working for the Cambodia Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, some of whom were subjected to death threats.