The Supreme Court on Wednesday denied bail for four officers of rights group Adhoc and an election official who have been held in jail for seven months after being charged in connection to a sex scandal targeting deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha.
(New York) The Cambodian Supreme Court s decision to refuse bail to five detained human rights defenders is part of the government s persecution of Cambodia s rights groups, Human Rights Watch said today. On November 30, 2016, the court upheld pretrial detention for four current and one former member of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), in violation of their due process rights under international law.
The country has avoided a return to conflict and is moving ahead with reforms.For the last two decades and more, Cambodia s political landscape has been characterized by a love hate relationship between the ruling Cambodian People s Party (CPP) and opposition political parties. Recent political developments, which saw a degree of harmony emerge between the CPP and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), the product of a merger back in 2012 and now the main opposition party, have since culminated in a return to that same kind of relationship, with the parties being divergent rather than convergent. Recent legal lawsuits launched against individuals from the CNRP have sparked rifts and rivalries between the CPP and CNRP, leading CNRP leader, Sam Rainsy, to go into self exile. The recent sex scandal surrounding Kem Sokha, Vice President of the CNRP, the arrests of several ADHOC staff and that of a National Election Committee (NEC) Deputy Secretary General on charges of conspiracy, an act contrary to the principle of NGO neutrality in the political sphere, have also sparked some contentious views regarding the current political climate. Some see the recent political climate as moving towards stalemate, while the ruling CPP views the situation as quiescent and moving towards improvement in all sectors.
Cambodia s Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the head of a recently established anti logging committee to get tough on the country s illegal timber trade by blasting smugglers with rockets fired from helicopters.But local rights groups and the opposition said Hun Sen s order failed to address the root causes of illegal logging in Cambodia and urged him to take action against high ranking officials and businessmen who are profiting from the trade.Speaking at the inauguration of the new headquarters of the Ministry of Environment on Thursday, the prime minister called on National Military Police Commander and head of the 10 member Coalition Committee for Forest Crime Prevention Sao Sokha to use deadly force against timber traffickers. We acknowledge that the loggers must be punished and must be cracked down on, he said, in response to a string of reports by local media of increased timber smuggling. I provided two helicopters to Sao Sokha, who has not fired a single shot so far. I now permit firing. If illegal loggers are defiant, then just fire rockets at them from above. Speaking in response to Hun Sen s order, Coalition Committee for Forest Crime Prevention spokesman Eng Hy told the The Phnom Penh Post that there had been no reason to fire rockets, as no loggers had shot at authorities during the latest crackdowns.He added that forestry crimes had decreased since Hun Sen established the committee at the end of January.Hun Sen has promised to crack down on forestry crimes in the past and famously pledged to cut off my own head if he was unable to resolve the problem.But in a 2015 report, local NGO Forest Trends found that an average of 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) of forests were being destroyed annually in Cambodia due to government granted land concessions.While illegal logging continues, forest activists have faced harassment and jailing by authorities, and in some cases have even been killed while carrying out investigations into the trade.Temporary measuresNeang Sovath, a provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, told RFA s Khmer Service that Hun Sen s efforts to rein in the illegal harvest of timber had so far yielded only temporary results.Instead, Hun Sen should take action against a number of high ranking officials and businessmen who are trading in timber, he said. Prime Minister Hun Sen has made a number of recommendations, but none are sustainable the measures only have temporary effect, Neang Sovath said. Because of this , the loggers just cut and cut and cut whatever they want. There have been lots of posts on Facebook which show illegal logging activities, but such posts are largely ignored. Yem Ponhearith, a lawmaker representing Prey Veng province for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), told RFA that Hun Sen had operated outside of his authority by ordering the Coalition Committee to fire rockets at illegal loggers.He said that any crackdown should only come after a thorough investigation into the masterminds behind the trade and must be handled within the framework of the law. We can see that there is still ongoing deforestation in the country, but any measures taken must involve legal methods, he said.Last month, Hun Sen established the Coalition Committee for Forest Crime Prevention to stop the smuggling of timber across the border to Vietnam and warned that he will remove the governor of Tbong Khmum province which serves as the main gateway for the logs if he fails to curb the illegal activities.Hun Sen specifically singled out two wealthy businessmen Soeng Sam Ol and Lim Bunna as the reported leaders of timber smuggling rings in Tbong Khmum, saying they had been smuggling wood to Vietnam.Cambodia has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world, largely due to illegal logging. A report issued last year by the U.K. environmental rights group Global Witness found that government and military officials collude with businessmen to illegally cut and transport Cambodian timber mainly to China.Reported by RFA s Khmer Service. Translated by Pagnawath Khun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes. CH. 1: MANDARIN CANTONESE