Weekly Report: July 14th, 2017

Photo: Yuri Gripas/Reuters Cambodia July 12th, marked the one year anniversary of the murder of leading political activist and government critic Kem Ley. Colleagues and friends Cambodians held memorial services in Phnom Penh and elsewhere to pay tribute to his courageous investigative journalism and service to truth. Other observers reiterated their concerns about the inadequacy of the criminal investigation and the suspect claims of Oeuth Ang, who was sentenced to life in prison for the murderer, that he acted alone. Phil Robertson, the head of Human Rights Watch- Asia, reports that at least 160 NGO’s from around the globe continue to demand that Cambodia establish an independent and impartial commission of inquiry, in line with the UN Principles of Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extralegal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. In a darkly ironic twist, on the very same date, the Cambodia government issued a new bill which prohibits political parties from being affiliated with convicted criminals, a move many observers have described as another covert attempt to stifle political opposition. Considering that many opposition members and outspoken critics of the government have already been convicted for breaking some of Cambodia´s more recent laws which curtail freedom of expression, the bill will surely impact the leadership of the opposition and its efficacy in the 2018 general election campaign. http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/cambodia-remembers-murdered-government-critic-as-elections-loom/ http://www.jurist.org/paperchase/2017/07/cambodia-passes-bill-to-stifle-government-opposition.php Democratic Republic of the Congo The DRC’s president, Joseph Kabila, might once be trying to prolong his mandate. Although elections were initially announced in December, his electoral commission now mentions that holding the elections in 2017 might “not be possible” due to voter registration, and that voting might be postponed for next...

Weekly report: July 4th, 2017

Photo: Mas de 131: Twitter. Venezuela A helicopter attacked two government buildings in Caracas on June 28 using guns and grenades. The helicopter was piloted by Oscar Pérez, a former captain in the CICPC, Venezuela’s intelligence and investigative body. The Venezuelan government says the CIA and the US embassy are behind the attack, although they offer no evidence to prove the claims. Some opposition members in Parliament express suspicion that the Venezuelan government staged the incident to justify a crackdown on critics. The CICPC helicopter flew a banner reading “350 Libertad” in reference to article 350 of the Venezuelan constitution, which states that the Venezuelan people will not recognize any authority that opposes democracy and human rights. Violent riots and anti-government demonstrations continue around the country. Roughly 68 businesses have been looted in the city of Maracay, and the headquarters of the PSUV governing party were also burned in the violence. At least four people have been killed and eight injured in Barquisimeto, west of Caracas, bringing the total number of casualties to at least 80 since the protests began in April. The Attorney General’s office announced it was investigating allegations of government raids and detentions. Opposition protesters, led by the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) are calling for early elections and an end to the government’s plan to rewrite the constitution. On Sunday, President Maduro raised the country’s minimum wage by half, although given the falling value of the currency the new wage remains 17% lower since the last increase in May. The currency has fallen 99.7% since Maduro’s election in 2013, deepening the country’s economic and political crisis...

Weekly report: June 23rd, 2017

Cambodia On Wednesday it was announced that the 13-month investigation into the group of five human rights workers known as the ‘Adhoc 5’ had concluded. The 420-day detention of senior officials Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soskan, Li Mony and senior election official Ny Chakrya has been criticized by several international organizations, including but not limited to the United Human Rights Office, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Earlier in the year, the five were in the running for the Martin Ennals award. On the same day, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reaffirmed his promise to maintain power at any cost. Sen underscored that “As long as your tongue and your writing insult, I say that Cambodia is still at war,” and that “To protect the peace for millions of people if necessary, 100 or 200 people must be eliminated.” Meanwhile, several non-violent protests took place over the course of the week. In Kratie, 200 villagers took to the street to protest rubber planation company Doty Saigon-Binh’s attempt to limit their mobility. Ultimately, it was negotiated that villagers could travel freely 24 hours, but the time limit for the transportation of goods would remain limited. Likewise, over 500 garments workers for the company International Fashion Royal staged a walkout in response to the dismissal of Bo Thet, their union rep. According to reports, the company had prevented workers from paying their union over a seven month period. Later on Thursday, the Kampuchea Krom community was forbidden from protesting at the Nation Assembly in response to the continued human rights abuses of the Krum under present-day Vietnamese people. https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/adhoc-5-investigation-concluded-trial-awaits-131614/ https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/prepare-coffin-hun-sen-repeats-bloody-power-promise-131626/...

Weekly report: June 16th, 2017

Cambodia On Wednesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen lifted an order exiling Sam Rainsy, the former opposition leader who previously served as the President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). It remains uncertain whether Mr. Rainsy will be imprisoned upon his return; without a royal pardon, the likelihood of arrest appears high in the face of numerous convictions amassed against him for criticizing the government and alleging the state had ordered the assassinations of political analyst Kem Ley. The local (commune) elections on June 4 led to a narrow victory for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party, but the process was criticized by Human Rights Watch as neither free or fair due to threats to free speech and imprisonment of political opponents. Nevertheless, the CNRP garnered almost half of the votes, signalling the possibility of strong competition in the 2018 Parliamentary elections. Mr. Rainsy has said he will run for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s position in next year’s elections. https://www.cambodiadaily.com/news/hun-sen-lifts-ban-but-will-sam-rainsy-come-back-131364/ https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/12/cambodia-commune-elections-not-free-or-fair Democratic Republic of the Congo Nine former African presidents and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan have warned that the ongoing political crisis in the DRC stemming from President Joseph Kabila’s refusal to step down at the end of his constitutional mandate and the failure to organize an election to replace him puts the country’s future in “grave danger.” A December agreement between Kabila’s ruling coalition and opposition leaders requires that an election be held before the end of the year, however it appears increasingly unlikely that one will take place in the face of significant delays in voter registration and mobilizing financing. The DRC is also facing...

Weekly report: June 12th, 2017

Cambodia Cambodia had its nation-wide commune elections on Sunday which resulted in significant gains for the opposition CNRP party, despite a general victory for the ruling CPP. CNRP received 46 percent of the vote, an increase from 30 percent in the last local elections in 2012; CPP received 51 percent, down from 62 percent in 2012. The election had its fair share of problems, though they pale in comparison to the 2013 national elections which featured a riot in Phnom Penh, voters being chased from polling stations, widespread voter list problems, registration rates exceeding 125 percent in some provinces, and a yearlong opposition boycott of parliament over the results. This year, a handful of CNRP voters were temporarily detained, 12 election observers were illegally booted from their polling stations, and soldiers were seemingly stationed in communes with tight races in order to swat the vote in the ruling party’s favor. Still, the election proceedings earned praise from the UN for being successful. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/cambodia-opposition-claim-gains-local-elections-170604200114256.html http://www.phnompenhpost.com/national/smooth-elections-sound-strategy-least-now Democratic Republic of the Congo On Friday the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for an international investigation into widespread human rights violations and abuses committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasai region. At least 42 mass graves have been found in the area, which since last August has been facing increased violence between militia and government forces, and the UN fears that the actual number of graves may be higher. Violence in the DRC has risen nationally since President Joseph Kabila decided to stay in power beyond the end of his mandate, which ended in December...