Connect with us


Human rights NGOs decry intimidation and retaliation in Cambodia’s election fallout

FORUM-ASIA and CIVICUS condemn the handling of Cambodia’s recent elections, underscoring government intimidation, retaliation, and suppression of dissent. Both NGOs urge respect for citizens’ right to free and fair elections while expressing solidarity with Cambodia’s human rights activists.



PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA: Leading human rights organisations, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, have voiced deep concern over the intimidation and retaliation against media workers, civil society, and political opponents observed before, during, and after the recent general elections in Cambodia.

The July 23, 2023 elections, labelled by the international community and civil society as neither free nor fair, culminated in the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) securing 95% of the parliament seats. This election outcome was anticipated, given that the Candlelight Party, the only viable opposition party, was debarred from the elections in May, leading to an absence of authentic electoral competition.

FORUM-ASIA’s Executive Director, Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, highlighted the government’s systematic suppression of dissent and political opposition through bureaucratic harassment and intimidation, despite international scrutiny. “These results do not come as a surprise”, Diez-Bacalso added.

In an unprecedented move, the government criminalised actions interpreted as attempts to boycott the election or spoil ballot papers.

A total of four representatives from the Candlelight Party were arrested on charges of spoiling ballots, inciting people to destroy ballots, and ‘disturbing the peace’.

On similar grounds, 17 other opposition activists and politicians were fined and barred from holding elected office for 20 years.

Even after the elections, the intimidation continued. CamboJA News reported the arrest of a former official of the banned Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Chao Veasna, who was named in a Telegram group allegedly discussing spoiling ballots.

The group contained 44 members, all of whom had their personal identities, including phone numbers, exposed to the public.

This series of arrests were primarily made possible by the recently amended election law, passed just before the elections. The law penalizes individuals who interfere with or disrupt an election, including actions such as calling on others not to register to vote, not to vote or to spoil ballot papers.

Josef Benedict, CIVICUS Asia Pacific Researcher, called out this repressive legislation and the intimidation tactics deployed by the Cambodian government. “Spoiling your ballot or calling for others to do so should not be a crime, especially when the credibility of the election has been seriously called into question”, he said.

Both FORUM-ASIA and CIVICUS are calling on the Cambodian Government to cease stifling dissent through intimidation and judicial harassment. They stand in solidarity with Cambodia’s human rights defenders and activists, urging the government to respect its citizens’ right to free and fair elections.

Share this post via:
Continue Reading
Click to comment
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments