PHNOM PENH — Asia’s longest-standing leader was re-elected yesterday, but with a significantly reduced majority amid widespread allegations of dirty tricks. Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party won 68 out of 123 seats — according to early projections — 22 fewer than at the last election, and a big advance for the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). It represents a relative victory for the CNRP’s popular leader, Sam Rainsy, who returned from exile nine days before the election, too late either to vote or stand as a candidate. Early reports suggested that the election was mostly conducted peacefully, although there was a stream of reports of irregularities. Even before the polls opened, the Opposition said that voter registration procedures were badly flawed, leaving as many as a million people disenfranchised.
SEKSAK, BATTAMBANG — On the back 7 to 10 percent growth over much of the last decade, Cambodia’s government insists it is trying to build what it calls a sustainable land policy, including reclaiming fertile terrain lost to landmines and bombs — legacies of the country’s years of civil conflict. But others say a corrupt and Chinese-influenced administration is trampling the rights of citizens in the name of economic development in what remains a country still recovering from long-finished wars. Until six months ago, the fields behind Ly Susmat’s house in Seksak village in the western Battambang province were not safe to walk. That was before the NGO Mines Advisory Group pitched down in the village to clear mines and unexploded ordnance, a dangerous and economically-debilitating legacy of civil war in a country where around 80% of the people depend on farming for a living. He has got some land to farm safely now, but that’s just a start. “I need capital to rent a plough, I want to grow highland rice here,” Ly Susmat says, waving an arm toward an 8,000 meter square plot of land outside Seksak, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold in the west of the country.
PHNOM PENH — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) launched a non-binding human rights code on Sunday in the Cambodian capital, drawing fire from critics who say the declaration fails to meet international standards. Opening the 21st ASEAN Summit on Sunday morning, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that the human rights declaration “will further promote peace, security, reconciliation and protection of human rights in the region.” Critics say, however, that the new charter falls far short of what is needed to improve the often deplorable rights records of countries in the region. “Our worst fears in this process have now come to pass. Rather than meeting international standards, this declaration lowers them by creating new loopholes and justifications that ASEAN member states can use to justify abusing the rights of their people,” says Phil Robertson of US-based Human Rights Watch.