2014 worst for modern Cambodia, says rights group

PHNOM PENH – Land seizures and impunity for the security forces marked last year as one of the worst in Cambodia’s recent history, Human Rights Watch reported Thursday.

The chapter on Cambodia in the group’s World Report 2015 details unchecked killings by the army and police, summary trials and crackdowns on protests.

The report, which comes just two weeks after Human Rights Watch delivered a withering account of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s 30 years in power, also blames the West for failing to hold the government to account.

“If the government was truly respectful of the people’s will as expressed in elections and peaceful demonstrations, 2014 could have been a year of great human rights progress for Cambodia,” the group’s Asia Director Brad Adams said, referring to the disputed outcome of the July 2013 general election.

“Instead, the year was the worst for human rights violations in Cambodia in a long time.”

In the months following the election, which the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party claimed to have won, seven civilians were shot dead by the security forces.

Human Rights Watch said at least 90 “politically motivated cases” against opposition figures were heard in court while “security forces continued to enjoy total impunity for current and past human rights violations.”

In his statement, Adams said land seizures were “business as usual” for the ruling elite, despite promises that more would be done to curb the distribution of concessions that have seen hundreds of thousands thrown off their land.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan was unavailable for comment.

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