News / Asia

Attacks on Cambodian Activists Underscore Court Interference

In this photo taken Feburary 6, 2012 and released by The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Chut Wutty stands on wooden planks of log in a jungle in Kampong Thom province in northern of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
In this photo taken Feburary 6, 2012 and released by The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Chut Wutty stands on wooden planks of log in a jungle in Kampong Thom province in northern of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Daniel Schearf
A court in Cambodia has dismissed a case on the killing of a well-known environment and rights campaigner. Critics say is the latest failure of the justice system. 

Chut Wutty was shot dead under suspicious circumstances in one of a series of recent attacks against activists, journalists and protesters.  Rights groups say the incidents underscore impunity for the powerful and political interference in the courts.  

The activist was investigating alleged illegal logging when he was stopped at a checkpoint, shot and killed, along with a military police officer. Police blamed the dead officer for the April killing in Southwest Koh Kong province.

They initially claimed the policeman committed suicide but later changed their story to say he was accidentally shot, twice, by a security guard.

A Koh Kong provincial court was to open a hearing on the two killings Thursday, but suddenly dropped the Chut Wutty shooting, saying the suspect was already dead.

Ou Virak, head of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, says the court's failure to pursue the case demonstrates political interference.

"Many of the officials who benefit from illegal trade, illegal logging, and illegal trade of timbers, were not happy with him," Ou Virak noted.  "And, because of that, I don't think there's any desire by the government and people in power to investigate."

Chut Wutty was a vocal critic of corruption in Cambodia's land disputes and natural resources.

Other recent cases have underscored the influence of powerful business and political figures to manipulate the justice system.

On Monday, a court sentenced the owner of Cambodia's only independent radio station to 20 years in prison for insurrection, despite flimsy evidence.  

Activists say Mam Sonando, 70, whose Beehive Radio carries some VOA and Radio Free Asia programs, was targeted for challenging authorities.

The court pursued the case against Mam Sonando only after Prime Minister Hun Sen called for his arrest.

Janice Beanland, a campaigner for Amnesty International, says the verdict raised serious doubts about whether it is possible to have a fair trial in Cambodia.

"I think that this year has seen a marked deterioration in the situation for freedom of expression, particularly for human rights defenders and peaceful protesters," Beanland said.  "They are facing increasing harassment, legal action through government-controlled courts, and violence including killings."

In September, the body of a journalist investigating illegal logging connections to the Cambodian military was found in the trunk of a car.

At least three other incidents this year involved security forces opening fire on unarmed labor and land protesters.  

In May, a 14-year-old girl was shot dead during a violent land eviction.

Ou Virak says there appears to be increasing intolerance of criticism leading up to 2013 nationwide elections - especially on land issues.

"The ruling party was not happy with the result of the latest local election in 2012, even though they won a landslide victory they expect more," said Ou Virak.  "So, they are beginning to silence the critics, they are beginning to stop some of the media from reporting on the widespread conflicts that arose from land, economic land concessions, and land grabs.  And, I think the crackdown will continue until election day."

Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party swept June elections for communal chiefs, winning more than 70 percent of the vote.  

But the CPP lost ground in areas with land disputes and forced evictions from land leased to foreign companies.

The sensitivity of the issue led Prime Minister Hun Sen to declare a moratorium and review of land concessions.

Surya Subedi is the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia.  He says while halting the corruption-prone practice was a step in the right direction freedom of expression was still deteriorating.

"And, in the run up to the elections I have asked the government to relax the situation and I have recommended that there should be a free and open political environment to hold free and fair elections," said Subedi.  "And, what I have seen, the recent couple of incidents, demonstrate that things are not moving in the right direction."

In a July report to the United Nations, Subedi said human rights defenders now feared for their lives and increased intolerance by authorities would likely affect political space for opposition parties.

The main opposition Sam Rainsy Party Tuesday announced it won approval to merge with the Human Rights party to form the Cambodia National Rescue Party.  

But, even if they had a level playing field, the opposition holds 29 parliament seats, compared to the ruling CPP's 90.

Sam Rainsy, who leads his party, lives in self-imposed exile to avoid jail for convictions that critics say are political.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia for 27 years and says he will stay in power until death.

You May Like

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid