United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Cambodia, -, 30 January 1996, https://www.refworld.org/reference/annualreport/usdos/1996/en/24840 [accessed 24 February 2024]
CAMBODIA Cambodia completed its second year under democratic rule after 20 years of undemocratic regimes and civil war. The transition to a democratically elected government followed the signing of the Paris Peace Accords by Cambodia's rival factions in 1991, which led to free and fair elections administered by the United Nations in May 1993, and the promulgation of a constitution in September 1993. The Royal Cambodian Government is a coalition composed primarily of the FUNCINPEC Party, which won the majority of votes in the 1993 election, and the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), which had ruled the country since the ouster of the Khmer Rouge by the Vietnamese in 1979. The leader of FUNCINPEC, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, and former State of Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen of the CPP are first and second Prime Ministers, respectively. King Norodom Sihanouk is the constitutional monarch and Head of State. Most power lies with the executive branch; the judiciary is not independent in practice. The Khmer Rouge, which signed the Paris Accords but refused to implement them, continue to wage a mostly low-level guerrilla insurgency against the Government. The police have primary responsibility for internal security, but the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF), including the military police, also have domestic security responsibilities. In early 1995, the Government started efforts to integrate 19,000 former FUNCINPEC and Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party (BLDP) personnel into the police force. The Government also continued to implement an ambitious reform plan to improve RCAF performance. Members of the security forces committed human rights violations, for which they were rarely prosecuted. Cambodia has a market economy in which approximately 80 percent of the population engage in subsistence farming, with rice as the principal crop. The country has a small, but growing, garment industry; timber and rubber are the principal exports. In April, in an attempt to stop illegal timber-cutting activities, the Government imposed a ban on exports of round timber and rough-cut lumber. Foreign aid is an important source of national income. Cambodia is a poor country, with a per capita gross domestic product of approximately $275 annually. The human rights situation worsened in several respects, including tolerance for opposition views, but it continued to be better than during previous regimes. There continued to be reports of numerous abuses, including political intimidation and instances of extrajudicial killings. There were also credible reports that members of the security forces beat detainees. Prison conditions remained poor, and prolonged detention was a problem. The Government lacked the resources or the political will to act aggressively against individuals, particularly members of the military, who were responsible for such abuses. The Government imposed some restrictions on freedom of expression and prosecuted several journalists critical of the Government. These cases, as well as the removal of an outspoken member of Parliament by his party and a grenade attack at an opposition party headquarters, led to concern that the Government was becoming less tolerant of opposing views. Emerging democratic institutions, particularly the judiciary, still are weak. The judiciary is subject to influence by the executive and marred by inefficiency, lack of training, a shortage of resources, and corruption related to low wages. People were effectively denied the right to a fair trial. The ethnic Vietnamese minority faced widespread discrimination and some violence, and people with disabilities also faced societal discrimination. Abuse of children is common. Persons living in Khmer Rouge zones were denied virtually all political rights and were subject to serious human rights abuses by the Khmer Rouge leadership.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There was no evidence of a government-sponsored campaign of violence, but there was one reported case of a killing by government agents for political reasons. In February two local militia members from Mong Russey district, Battambang, were arrested for killing two suspected Khmer Rouge members. They were released pending trial in May but were never tried. There were reports that the military pressured the court to release the suspects. There were a number of credible reports that members of government security forces committed extrajudicial killings. The authorities made few arrests in connection with these crimes, due to a combination of ineffectiveness of law enforcement, intimidation of civilian authorities by the military, and in some cases a lack of prosecutorial vigor. For example, Sath Soeun, an RCAF officer in Kompong Cham province, was implicated in the killing of a 16-year-old boy in July. A warrant was issued for his arrest, but he was not apprehended. Sath Soeun was also implicated in a number of other crimes, including killing journalist Chan Dara (see 1994 report) for which he was imprisoned for several months before being tried and acquitted. In May fisheries department officials shot and killed a fisherman in Kompong Chnang. Officials claimed that they had intended to fire a warning shot after the boat ignored calls to stop. The victim's family did not file charges against the officials but received a small cash settlement. There was little progress in the investigation of cases of extrajudicial killing in 1994. For example, there were no further developments in the unsolved 1994 killing of journalist Nuon Chan. The Khmer Rouge continued to execute summarily civilians in areas under its control. The Khmer Rouge also continued to carry out its policy, announced in 1994, to execute systematically government officials in the countryside. On May 20, approximately 30 Khmer Rouge entered a village in Kompong Thom province and fired on villagers, killing 4 ethnic Vietnamese and a Khmer policeman. In July a Sihanoukville court found a former Khmer Rouge soldier guilty of the November 1994 murders of three foreign tourists. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison along with five other Khmer Rouge members who were tried in absentia. In January an American tourist and a Cambodian guide traveling outside the Angkor Wat Temple complex were killed in an ambush by a group of bandits which may have included Khmer Rouge. Several people were arrested, tried, and sentenced to long prison terms in connection with these killings. Other suspects in the killings, however, escaped from the Siem Reap prison and were tried and convicted in absentia.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. However, there was one known instance in which RCAF officers abducted a farmer from Kompong Chnang province and then moved him to an unknown location. He has not been heard of since. The military officials acknowledged taking the farmer into custody for suspected links to the Khmer Rouge but claimed that he had escaped. The Khmer Rouge often abducted people for periods of 2 weeks to a month, mostly to serve as porters. In Koh Kong province, over 40 people disappeared and were assumed to have been killed by the Khmer Rouge in a revenge attack following attacks by government troops. Beginning in mid-1995, there were several kidnapings of foreign Asian businessmen; most of whom were subsequently released. An executive at a large casino was abducted and held for 2 days before being rescued by the police. Seven people, including a military police officer, were arrested in the case but had not been tried by year's end. There were no developments in the disappearances of 17 political party activists before the May 1993 election, which United Nations personnel attributed to authorities of the former State of Cambodia.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Government does not systematically use torture, but there were credible reports that security officials often severely beat criminal detainees, particularly during interrogation. In one particularly egregious case, police beat severely a 15-year-old suspected of theft and his mother. The mother had internal injuries as a result. The police later returned to the home of the 15-year-old, beat and tortured him, including use of electric shock, and took him into police custody, where he was held for 3 days without food and water. Police denied wrongdoing in connection with the case and the authorities took no action against the perpetrators. A pregnant woman arrested for theft was reportedly slapped, burned with cigarettes, and denied food by the police in an attempt to extract a confession. She was released on bail after she began to hemorrhage, and suffered a miscarriage shortly thereafter. A human rights worker reported that, following a prison break in Siem Reap in May, prison officials severely beat the prisoners who were rearrested. One prisoner was reportedly shot twice in the leg after surrendering. The police often use excessive force in the apprehension of criminal suspects. In August four foreigners were shot and injured by police and soldiers while they were riding motorcycles past the house of the second Prime Minister. The security personnel claimed that they had mistaken the victims for thieves after they ran a roadblock. By the end of the year, no action had been taken against the perpetrators. Four men, three of whom worked as bodyguards for opposition politician Sam Rainsy, reported that they were taken on the night of July 13 to a military facility by 30 to 40 soldiers and beaten and interrogated for 16 hours. The men stated that during the interrogation, the soldiers tried to extract a statement linking Rainsy with the Khmer Rouge. The Government continued efforts to improve prison conditions albeit with limited financial resources. Conditions in many prisons remained poor. The U.N. Human Rights Center, the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative for human rights, and an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) cited a number of serious problems including overcrowding, food and water shortages, and poor security. Human rights workers reported that the practice of using shackles and holding prisoners in small, dark cells, widespread in the State of Cambodia period but virtually eliminated by the U.N. Transition Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), had resumed in some prisons. However, the Government allowed human rights groups to visit prisons and to provide human rights training to prison guards. Although an alleged illegal detention facility in Battambang province was closed in 1994, there were unconfirmed reports of the existence of small, illegal detention facilities in several provinces.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
A Penal Code drafted by UNTAC and approved by the interim Supreme National Council remains in effect, as does a Criminal Procedure Law dating from the State of Cambodia period. The Criminal Procedure Law in theory provides adequate protection for criminal suspects, but in practice the Government frequently ignored these provisions. Although lengthy detention without charge is illegal, suspects are often held for long periods before being charged. Accused persons are legally entitled to a lawyer, although in practice they often have no access to legal representation. In family cases, the parties are denied by law the right to have legal representation. Prisoners are routinely held for several days before gaining access to a lawyer or family members. There is a bail system, although many prisoners, particularly those without legal representation, often have no opportunity to seek release on bail. The introduction into the legal system of a corps of nonlawyer pro bono defenders, trained by NGO's, resulted in significant improvements for those defendants who were provided with counsel, including a reduction in the pretrial detention period and improved access to bail. The Government did not generally use detention without charge as a means of political control; however, there was one case in which six persons were detained for the peaceful expression of political views. On the night of August 5, the Government apprehended six persons who were distributing political leaflets critical of the Government, accusing them of "incitement" and imprisoning them for 6 weeks before a court released them unconditionally. In October police in Kompong Cham province arrested a policeman who was making insulting remarks about First Prime Minister Ranariddh in a restaurant while intoxicated. Human rights workers who followed up on the case stated that the policeman was imprisoned for several weeks and then held under administrative detention before being released in December. In November FUNCINPEC Secretary General Norodom Sirivudh was arrested for alleged involvement in an assassination plot against Second Prime Minister Hun Sen. Human rights groups expressed concern about several aspects of his detention, including the fact that he was held under house arrest for several days before his parliamentary immunity was lifted by the National Assembly. Sirivudh was allowed to depart for France in December while investigation of the case still continued. Exile is prohibited by the Constitution and not practiced. No legal system is known to exist in Khmer Rouge zones. Khmer Rouge forces often seize hostages in order to intimidate villagers into cooperating with them.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary. However, in practice the Government does not ensure due process and an independent judiciary. The courts are subject to influence by the executive, and there is widespread corruption among judges who do not receive a living wage. Civilian courts are often unable to try members of the military. In a report issued in September, Justice Michael Kirby, the U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative in Cambodia, highlighted the need for judicial reform, including increased salaries for judges, as one of the most pressing human rights issues in Cambodia. The court system consists of lower courts, an appeals court, and a Supreme Court. The Constitution also mandates a Constitutional Council, which is empowered to review the constitutionality of laws, and a Supreme Council of Magistrates, which appoints and disciplines judges. These two bodies have not yet been established. A serious lack of resources and poor training contribute to inefficiency in the judicial branch. For example, judges often lack copies of the laws on which they are supposed to hand down rulings. The judiciary as a whole is marred by the lack of a clear and consistent set of procedures by which a case makes its way through the system. As a result of these weaknesses in the judicial system, people were often effectively denied the right to a fair trial. There is also a military court system, which suffers from the same deficiencies as the civilian court system. The courts often pressure victims of crimes to accept small cash settlements from the accused. When a case does make its way to court, the verdict is often determined by a judge before the case is heard, sometimes on the basis of a bribe by the accuser or the defendant. Sworn, written statements from witnesses and the accused are usually the extent of evidence presented in trials. Often these statements result from beatings or threats by investigating officials, and illiterate defendants are often not informed of the content of written confessions they are forced to sign. In cases involving the military, military officers often exert pressure on judges to have the defendant released. Trials are public. Defendants have the right to be present and the right to consult with an attorney. The serious shortage of attorneys is somewhat alleviated by the provision of nonlawyer defenders by the Government or, more frequently, human rights organizations. In June the National Assembly passed a bar statute that allows NGO-trained defenders to practice through 1997. Defendants are allowed to confront and question witnesses against them and to present witnesses and evidence on their own behalf. However, trials are typically perfunctory (about an hour on average), and extensive cross-examination usually does not take place. Defendants are legally entitled to a presumption of innocence and the right of appeal. However, because of extensive corruption, defendants are often expected to bribe the judge for a favorable verdict and therefore are effectively denied the presumption of innocence. There were no reports of political prisoners.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The Government does not coerce or forbid membership in political organizations. However, membership in the Khmer Rouge, which is conducting an armed insurgency against the Government, is illegal. There were unconfirmed reports that the Government arbitrarily monitored private electronic communication including in the case of Prince Sirividh (see Section 1.d.). According to human rights observers, the police routinely conducted warrantless searches and seizures. Although people are largely free to live where they wish, there were reports that the municipality of Phnom Penh had forcibly removed over 1,000 indigent and homeless persons from Phnom Penh to rural areas in July; many of them subsequently returned to Phnom Penh.
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian Law in Internal Conflicts
Fighting between government forces and the Khmer Rouge insurgency continued. As in previous years, many civilians were killed or wounded by indiscriminate shelling and by land mines laid by both sides. Villages were subjected to burning and looting by the Khmer Rouge. These attacks escalated following an October 1994 Khmer Rouge policy decision to harass local officials and terrorize the local population. The media reported that more than 40 villagers were killed in Koh Kong province in a May campaign against persons suspected of being spies. An NGO reported in March that since October 1994, the Khmer Rouge forced between 40,000 and 60,000 villagers to leave their homes, following campaigns to loot, burn, and destroy property. On April 20, guerrillas loosely affiliated with the Khmer Rouge attacked a Chinese-owned rock crushing plant on Phnom Srang Mountain, killing two Chinese workers and injuring a third.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of expression, press, and publication, but the Government sometimes limits press freedom in practice. The Constitution implicitly limits free speech by requiring that speech not adversely affect public security. The Constitution also declares that the King is "inviolable." A press law that went into effect in September provided journalists with a number of rights, including a prohibition on prepublication censorship and the right not to be imprisoned for expressing opinion. However, the law included a vaguely worded prohibition on publishing articles that affect national security and political stability. These provisions were strongly criticized by human rights groups and journalists. The Government pledged to issue a new law or subdecree defining these terms, but had not done so by year's end. Cambodia's news organizations, including approximately 50 newspapers, remained active. Most newspapers were independent, but the Government, the military, and political parties continued to dominate the broadcast media. Although many newspapers remained critical of the Government, throughout the year violence against the press and government pressure created a climate of fear among members of the press which led to self-censorship by some journalists. There are three journalists' associations which actively lobbied for a liberal press law and against the detention of journalists. The Government continued its intimidation of newspapers overtly critical of the Government, mostly through legal action. In January the Government filed defamation suits against two newspapers, the Voice of Khmer Youth and the New Liberty News, and confiscated that week's issues of the newspapers, after they ran articles and cartoons attacking the co-Prime Ministers. On February 27, the editor of the Voice of Khmer Youth, Chan Rotana, was sentenced to a year in prison for "disinformation" under the UNTAC-era Press Law. The editor of New Liberty News, Hen Vipheak, was sentenced to a year in prison on May 20 for publishing an article critical of the two Prime Ministers. Both editors were released pending appeal. After their initial appeal was denied at the end of 1995, the two editors remained free pending appeal to the Supreme Court. The editor of the newspaper Khmer Ideal was convicted of defamation and publishing false information following publication of opinion pieces critical of the Government. He was fined $4,000 and told that he would have to serve a year in prison if he was unable to pay the fine. This conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals. The editor appealed to the Supreme Court. By the end of 1995, there had been no convictions for the killings of two journalists in 1994. A powerful soldier in Kompong Cham province, Sath Soeun, was acquitted of the 1994 killing of journalist Chan Dara (see Section 1.e.). No one was tried for the 1994 killing of journalist Nuon Chan. In September the office and home of journalist Nguon Nonn, editor of the newspaper Morning News, was damaged by a hand grenade thrown over his fence by a rider on a motorcycle. By the end of the year, there had been no arrest in connection with this crime. On October 23, approximately 100 residents of the village of Kraingyov, the site of a development project overseen by second Prime Minister Hun Sen, ransacked the office of the New Liberty News, which had criticized the Kraingyov project. Following the attack, Hun Sen told the villagers that the attack on the newspaper had been justified. After this incident, the newspaper's printer refused to continue printing New Liberty News and other opposition papers. The papers subsequently made other arrangements and continued printing. Also in September the media reported that the Government had issued a directive instructing teachers, including private school teachers, not to talk about politics in class. The KR do not allow freedom of speech or press in zones they control.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Large, organized political demonstrations are rare, although small demonstrations by villagers in front of the houses of the two Prime Ministers were tolerated by the Government. In October a faction of the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, which earlier in the year split into two rival groups, was denied permission to hold a party congress in the Phnom Penh stadium. Although the Government cited security concerns and improper use of the party name, the Government's refusal to allow the congress may have been undertaken for political reasons, since the governing coalition supported the other BLDP faction. On September 30, unknown persons lobbed 2 or 3 grenades at the faction's headquarters and a nearby Buddhist pagoda, injuring at least 30 faction supporters. First Prime Minister Ranariddh, speaking on behalf of the Government, condemned the attack. Despite the attack, the BLDP faction proceeded with its congress in an abbreviated manner the following day. No one has been arrested in connection with the incident. The Government requires indigenous NGO's to register with the Ministry of Interior. The Government delayed the registration of some NGO's in 1995 on the grounds that it was in the process of drafting legislation regulating NGO's. However, no action has been taken to date against unregistered NGO's. In Khmer Rouge-controlled areas, freedom of assembly and association do not exist.
c. Freedom of Religion.
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion and prohibits discrimination based on religion. The Government respects this right in practice. Buddhism is the state religion.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
The Government does not restrict travel outside Cambodia or within parts of Cambodia it controls, although the presence of land mines and bandits makes travel in some areas perilous. The Khmer Rouge, who refused to comply with the Paris Accords by opening the areas they control, continued to restrict access to, from, and within these zones. Tens of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese fled Cambodia in early 1993 due to racial violence directed at Vietnamese. Many returned after the elections. However, the Cambodian authorities stopped and forbade reentry to several thousand boats on the Mekong River. Although most of these people have been allowed to return and others reentered quietly over land, some remain stranded in the border area. The Government allows non-Cambodians to apply to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for refugee status in Cambodia.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
The Constitution provides for the right of citizens to change their government, and most citizens exercised this right by participating in the 1993 U.N.-administered elections. In those areas of the country controlled by the Khmer Rouge, citizens cannot exercise this right. In the 1993 election, each province elected constituent assembly members through proportional representation. Some 20 parties took part; 4 won seats. The United Nations certified the election as free and fair. After the drafting of a constitution, the Constituent Assembly became the National Assembly. Members of all four parties that won seats in the Assembly entered a coalition government, which remained in power through 1995. The legislature was weak in comparison with the executive branch. Most legislation considered or adopted originated in the ministries rather than in the Assembly. However, the Assembly successfully negotiated several important changes to draft laws, including the removal of criminal penalties from the Press Law and an amendment to the Bar Statute allowing NGO-trained defenders to continue practicing for several years. The executive branch of the Government appointed the provincial governors were appointed by . Governorships are divided between the two main coalition parties. District and commune officials are appointed; most of these officials are State of Cambodia appointees. In late 1995, the Interior Ministry announced plans to appoint FUNCINPEC personnel to roughly half of the district chief positions. The Government pledged in October to hold commune-level elections in early 1997. In June outspoken Member of Parliament Sam Rainsy was removed from the legislature following expulsion from his party, on the grounds that he had been elected on a party slate and the party had the right to decide who occupied his seat. The legality of this move was unclear, but the absence of a functioning Constitutional Council meant that there was no body competent to make a legal ruling. Some politicians and human rights groups expressed concern that the removal of Rainsy was an indication that the governing coalition was unwilling to tolerate dissent among members of the parties in the coalition. Traditional cultural practices inhibit the role of women in government. There are 7 women among the 120 members of the National Assembly. There are no women governors or cabinet ministers. There are a few women at the state secretary and deputy governor levels. There are several members of Cambodia's ethnic and religious minorities in the Cabinet and the National Assembly.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Cambodia's large international and indigenous human rights community, which first began operating under UNTAC, remained active and engaged in diverse activities. Numerous indigenous and international human rights organizations and the U.N. Human Rights Center conducted highly effective human rights training for civil servants, members of the security forces, villagers, and other groups. There are 40 Cambodian human rights NGO's which carried out investigations of human rights abuses. The National Assembly's Human Rights Commission, headed by a former NGO leader, served as a liaison between the Assembly and the human rights community. According to NGO leaders, communication between human rights NGO's and the executive branch of the Government improved in 1995. Most human rights NGO's reported little overt intimidation, although many felt that the sensitive issues they covered required them to exercise caution in carrying out their activities. In early 1995, the Government requested that the U.N. Human Rights Center in Cambodia depart before the end of its mandate. Following the expression of concern from the Cambodian and international human rights communities, from Cambodian political figures, and from foreign governments, the Government announced that it would allow the Center to complete its mandate. The Khmer Rouge do not permit any investigation of human rights violations within their zones.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, language, religious beliefs, or political views. Although the Government does not systematically engage in discrimination, it often fails to protect these rights in practice.
International and Cambodian NGO workers report that violence against women, including rape and domestic violence, is common. There have been several studies on domestic violence, but there are no reliable statistics on the extent of the problem. Authorities normally decline to become involved in domestic disputes. NGO's reported that prostitution and trafficking in women were becoming increasingly serious problems. At the end of the year, a bill on trafficking in women had been drafted but not enacted. The Constitution contains strong language providing for equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, and equal status in marriage. In practice, women have equal property rights with men, have the same status in bringing divorce proceedings, and have equal access to education and some jobs. However, cultural traditions continued to affect adversely women's ability to reach senior positions in government, business, and other areas. There were a large number of women's NGO's, which concentrated on training poor women and widows and addressing social problems such as spousal abuse and prostitution. Within the Government, the Secretariat of State for Women's Affairs is responsible for women's issues.
The Constitution explicitly provides for children's rights, and ensuring the welfare of children is a specific goal of the Government's political program. However, the Government relies on international aid to fund most social welfare programs targeted at children and; therefore, the resources devoted to this are modest. Children frequently suffer from the inadequacy of Cambodia's health care system. Infant mortality is reported at 123 per thousand and 1 of 5 children does not live to see his or her fifth birthday. Child mortality from preventable diseases is high. Children are also the victims of an inadequate educational system. Only about one percent of primary school teachers have completed high school. Schools are overcrowded and short of equipment. The Government does not deny girls equal access to education, but, in practice, families with limited resources often give priority to educating boys. Child abuse is believed to be common, although there are no statistics on the extent of this problem. NGO's believe that child prostitution became an increasingly serious problem during the year. A recent report found that one-third of prostitutes in Cambodia were under 17. In 1995 several persons were arrested for hiring children as prostitutes, and at least one person was arrested for trafficking in children. A U.N. regional forum on trafficking in children was held in Phnom Penh in December.
People with Disabilities
The Government does not mandate accessibility to buildings or government services for people with disabilities. According to international human rights groups, 1 in 236 Cambodians is missing at least 1 limb. This figure reflects the continuing impact of land mines on the population. Programs administered by various NGO's have brought about dramatic improvements in the treatment and rehabilitation of amputees. However, they face considerable societal discrimination, particularly in obtaining skilled employment.
People of Vietnamese and Chinese background have long comprised the largest ethnic minorities in Cambodia. Ethnic Chinese are well accepted. However, fear and animosity toward the Vietnamese, who are seen as a threat to the Khmer nation and culture, continue. In the absence of a nationality law, which is still under consideration by the Government, the legal and constitutional rights of ethnic Vietnamese remain unclear. Constitutional protections are extended only to "Khmer people." The Khmer Rouge continued a calculated campaign of inflammatory propaganda directed against ethnic Vietnamese, although there were fewer reported racially motivated killings of Vietnamese by the Khmer Rouge or others than in previous years (see Section 2.d.). Several thousand ethnic Vietnamese fled to the Vietnam-Cambodia border following massacres in early 1993: they continued to be denied permission to return to their homes, but most had in fact returned home by the end of the year (see Section l.d.).
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Government continued work on a new labor law with assistance from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Asian-American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI). At year's end, the bill had not been considered by the National Assembly. The current Labor Law was passed by the State of Cambodia in 1992. Workers have the right to form worker organizations of their own choosing without previous authorization. Worker organizations are not required to join a single trade union structure. There were few, if any, active independent trade unions. The majority of salaried workers are employed by the State, although there is a growing service sector. A large proportion of the urban population is engaged in low-level commerce or self-employed skilled labor.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The Labor Law provides for collective bargaining, although any agreement reached between workers and employees is subject to government approval. In practice, collective bargaining does not take place. The Government sets wages for civil servants. Wage rates in other sectors are set largely by the market. The Labor Law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers, but there is no mechanism for enforcing this provision. There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Labor Law prohibits forced or compulsory labor and contains penal sanctions for offenders. However, the Government does not adequately enforce these provisions. While there were no reports of coerced domestic or foreign workers, there were some reports of women being forced to work as prostitutes. The Khmer Rouge compel people under their control to serve as porters for military and other supplies and to clear land for farming.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The Labor Law states that the minimum age for employment is 16, except for those workers in family enterprises. Although penalties exist for violation of these provisions, the Government has not established an apparatus to enforce them. Cambodians under the age of 16 years routinely engage in a variety of jobs, including street trading, construction, and small-scale manufacturing. According to an NGO study published in 1993, at least 86 children, most 11 to 14 years of age, worked in the Phnom Penh dump collecting recyclable materials under extremely unhealthful, dangerous, and unsanitary conditions.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Labor Law does not provide for a nationwide minimum wage but requires a wage that assures a decent living standard. This standard wage varies according to region. The Government, however, does not enforce this requirement. Currently, market-determined wage rates at lower levels are not sufficient to provide a decent living for a worker and family. The Labor Law provides for a standard legal workweek of 48 hours and a 24-hour rest period and requires overtime pay. The Government does not enforce these standards, and workers commonly work more than 48 hours per week. The Law states that the workplace should have health and safety standards adequate to ensure the workers' well-being. However, the Government has not yet set specific standards. Penalties are specified in the law, but there are no provisions to protect workers who complain about unsafe and unhealthful conditions. Conditions in factories and small-scale industries are generally poor and often do not meet international standards.
In this section
U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Cambodia
Discrimination based on race, nationality, ethnicity
Economic, social and cultural rights
Freedom from torture, inhuman and degrading treatment
Freedom of assembly and association
Freedom of expression
Freedom of movement
Freedom of religion
Freedom of speech
Human rights and fundamental freedoms
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV)
Social group discrimination
Trafficking in persons
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