Respect for freedom of expression, association and assembly deteriorated. The authorities increasingly used excessive force against peaceful protesters. Human rights defenders faced threats, harassment, legal action and violence. Forced evictions, land disputes and land grabbing continued to affect thousands of people. Impunity for perpetrators of human rights abuses and a non-independent judiciary remained major problems, with flawed or no investigations into killings and shootings. Judicial investigations at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia stalled as allegations of government interference persisted.
The ruling Cambodian People’s Party won the majority of seats in the commune elections held in June. Two opposition parties merged to form the Cambodian National Rescue Party ahead of national elections in July 2013, but its leader Sam Rainsy remained abroad to avoid serving a prison sentence for politically motivated convictions. The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Cambodia issued two highly critical reports following his May visit: one on the electoral system, and the other on the impact of Economic Land Concessions on the human rights of affected communities. Cambodia chaired ASEAN, which in November adopted the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, despite serious concerns that it fell short of international standards. King Father Norodom Sihanouk died in October, aged 89.Top of page
Protests by communities over land and housing rights and by trade union activists were met with increasing violence. In January, security guards opened fire on peaceful protesters in Kratie province, injuring four people. The governor of Bavet town in Svay Rieng province shot three women during a protest over working conditions in February. A 14-year-old girl was shot dead in Kratie in May as security forces entered her village to carry out a forced eviction of 600 families. A union activist was beaten and detained by police after a group of workers submitted a petition to the Prime Minister’s office in July. No adequate investigation was carried out into any of these incidents.
Impunity for attacks against human rights defenders persisted.
The authorities harassed and threatened to arrest and take legal action against human rights workers and members of communities resisting forced eviction. Workers with the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association and the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, and a Radio Free Asia reporter, were summoned for court questioning after carrying out their legitimate activities in different land-related cases. In March and November, the authorities used intimidation and harassment to disrupt and prevent civil society associations and grassroots networks, including local and regional NGOs, from holding workshops and events around the ASEAN summits on a range of human rights issues.
The crisis over land continued, with forced evictions, land disputes and land-grabbing affecting thousands of people and resulting in a rise in protests. In May, the government announced a moratorium on granting Economic Land Concessions (ELCs), and a review of existing ELCs to ensure that they conformed with existing regulations. Several ELCs were granted after the moratorium. In June, the Prime Minister launched a project to allocate land titles to people living inside state forests, and economic and other land concessions. Thousands of student volunteers were tasked with mapping land and collecting information on occupancy.
Investigations into Cases 003 and 004 were stalled amidst allegations of government interference in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). The Supreme Council of Magistracy rejected the appointment of reserve Judge Laurent Kasper-Ansermet as International Co-Investigating Judge in January, despite his nomination by the UN. He resigned, effective early May, citing obstruction by his Cambodian counterpart. US Judge Mark Harmon replaced him in October, but no progress in the two cases was reported. Lack of funding resulted in the trial hearings in Case 002 being reduced to three days a week. Ieng Thirith, one of four alleged senior Khmer Rouge leaders on trial in Case 002, was declared unfit to stand trial and released into the care of her family in September. She was believed to have Alzheimer’s disease.