Cambodia: ‘Dramatic’ escalation of human rights repression threatens elections

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Sunday’s elections set to take place after opposition Candlelight Party denied right to register in politically-motivated move

New regulation prohibits any calls for a boycott of the vote

‘The authorities have spent the past five years picking apart what’s left of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association’ - Montse Ferrer

The human rights situation in Cambodia has deteriorated severely since the last election in 2018, Montse Ferrer, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Regional Research said ahead of this Sunday’s election, which is expected to be dominated by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party after the sole viable opposition group was blocked from participating.

Montse Ferrer said:

“Human rights repression has dramatically escalated in the years since the last national elections.

“The authorities in Cambodia have spent the past five years picking apart what’s left of the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and association.

“Under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership, the 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.

“The attempt to form and register the new opposition Candlelight Party was quickly quashed in what amounted to a politically-motivated decision not to allow their registration. 

“The 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 and peaceful assembly and association.”

Boycotting vote prohibited
In the lead-up to Sunday’s elections, new regulations came into force in Cambodia that could mean punishments for anyone calling for a boycott of the vote while several Candlelight Party members have been arbitrarily detained or sentenced to long prison terms on trumped-up charges. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party is generally expected to win all available seats this weekend, as it did in 2018, a vote which was widely seen as unfair by election monitors.

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