UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in a report published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed her concern over human rights violations, particularly on the freedom of speech, in Cambodia and some other countries in the Asia-Pacific during the virus health crisis. Khmer Times talks with Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, on the issue.
KT: What do you think about the current situation of human rights in Cambodia amid the COVID-19 pandemic? Which way is it heading?
Ms Sopheap: The human rights situation in Cambodia at present is troubling. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the lives of thousands of people across the country and I am concerned that human rights have suffered during this time. For example, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen worrying increases in arrests for exercises of fundamental freedoms, particularly freedom of expression. There has been an upsurge of people arrested for sharing information online and on social media, which has included over 40 reported arrests of people accused by the government of sharing “fake news” about the virus. There have also been arrests of journalists and members of the press, including Sok Oudom and Sovann Rithy and the subsequent withdrawal of their media licences. Both of these men are still in pre-trial detention. Human rights need to be protected and prioritisd during times of crisis, rather than constricted.