[Cambodia] Prime Minister threatens closure of a human rights NGO

The Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) is alarmed by the statement of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen threatening investigation and closure of a leading human rights non-government organization (NGO).

Speaking at a gathering of garment workers on 26 November 2017, Hun Sen said that the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) “must close because they follow foreigners.” He then instructed the Ministry of Interior to investigate the NGO to “potentially close it.” (The Phnom Penh Post, “Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’“)

The order follows the dissolution of the main opposition party earlier this month and a crackdown on independent media in August 2017.

“The threat to CCHR is a further indication that the Cambodian government is shutting down all critical voices in the country,” said SEAPA executive director Edgardo Legaspi.

“First, they targeted the media. Then, they dissolved the opposition. Now, they might have just begun a more vigorous crackdown on NGOs,” Legaspi added.

“We stand by the work of CCHR, which is a SEAPA member and one of the most prominent human rights NGOs in the country,” he continued.

According to a CCHR press release: “CCHR firmly believes that any independent and impartial investigation into CCHR would find no wrongdoing whatsoever on the part of the organization. CCHR calls upon the Royal Government of Cambodia to enter into a meaningful dialogue with CCHR representatives in relation to these allegations, in the firm belief that any misperceptions about the nature of CCHR’s work and neutrality could be clarified, and the matter resolved.”

Among the media targets in August 2017 are the programs of the Voice of Democracy, which is run by the Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), also a SEAPA member.