|Tith Sothea in rare instance when his head is not buried in his boss' derriere (Photo: DAP)|
PHNOM PENH, Jan. 25 (AP) - (Kyodo)—The Cambodian government on Tuesday dismissed as a "lie" a report by a U.S.-based human rights advocacy group that accused it of stepping up its repression of freedoms of expression, assembly and association last year.
Tith Sothea, spokesman of the Office of the Council of Ministers, slammed the accusations made in Human Rights Watch's annual report, calling it "inaccurate and a lie" and rejecting it as devoid of value.
He said the report ignored the Cambodian government's commitment to implement and strengthen the country's rule of law.
Human Rights Watch's report said the government in 2010 used the judiciary, new laws, and threats of arrest or legal action to restrict free speech, jail government critics, disperse workers and farmers peacefully protesting and silence opposition party members.
The report also said the government violated Cambodia's obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention by deporting to China some 20 Uighur asylum seekers at risk of torture and mistreatment there, which happened on the eve of a visit by senior Chinese officials that finalized a massive aid package to Cambodia.
It said journalists who criticize the government face biased legal action, imprisonment, and violence, while politically motivated court cases continue to target opposition members.
Pending legislation on nongovernmental organizations and trade unions is expected to further tighten restrictions on freedom of association, it said, noting that a new law already allows local officials to ban protests deemed threats to "security, safety, and public order."
The report said years of international donor funding for judicial reform in Cambodia have had little effect, and it noted that a report submitted in September by the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia strongly criticized the lack of judicial independence.
Japan, Cambodia's largest donor, "maintained its practice of not publicly confronting the government about its rights violations," while China, another major investor and donor, "continued to increase aid to Cambodia with no conditions made to improve human rights," Human Rights Watch said.
The rights group faulted the United States for continuing to aid and train Cambodia's armed forces, including units with records of serious rights violations
But according to U.S. Embassy spokesman Mark Wenig, "Every individual who is trained is thoroughly vetted both in Phnom Penh and Washington in accordance with U.S. law and Department regulations."
"The U.S. government provides training to Cambodian security forces to advance our goals of creating a more professional force and to advance U.S. objectives in areas such as counterterrorism and peacekeeping operations," he said.
The rights group also took Washington to task for U.S.-funded regional peacekeeping exercises last July, which it said took place on land transferred from a military unit involved in illegal land seizures.
Such illegal land seizures and forced evictions continue to escalate, it said, with thousands of families newly affected last year and dozens of people imprisoned or awaiting trial for protesting forced evictions and land grabbing.