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Cambodia

Cambodia rejects poor ranking in 'rule of law' index

Most countries around the world fare badly in enforcement of law during the Covid-19 pandemic

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: October 15, 2021 07:11 AM GMT

Updated: October 15, 2021 07:18 AM GMT

Cambodia rejects poor ranking in 'rule of law' index

A Cambodian activist gestures as police escort him away from a Phnom Penh court in November 2020 during a mass trial against more than 100 opposition members charged with conspiracy to commit treason. (Photo: AFP)

The Cambodian government has dismissed a report by the World Justice Project (WJP) that placed the Southeast Asian country second from the bottom in its Rule of Law Index 2021, saying the survey did not reflect the reality on the ground.

Cambodia was ranked 138th out of 139 countries, one ahead of Venezuela. In 2020, the WJP ranked Cambodia at 127 out of 128 countries.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said the report had failed to account for Cambodia in an international context during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He told the government-friendly Phnom Penh Post that some countries had criticized Cambodia for implementing Covid-related laws but those countries eventually had to enforce many measures and even stricter ones than what had been enforced in Cambodia. This included lockdowns and mandatory vaccinations.

“Therefore, downgrading Cambodia and making the country worse than others is unreasonable,” he said. “The ranking should be based on other sources …”

The WJP said its report was based purely on point scoring which showed a deterioration in Cambodia since 2015, about the same time as the government initiated a crackdown on opposition politicians and the independent press amid violent protests.

More than 100 CNRP supporters are currently before the courts on charges of incitement and treason, including a 16-year-old youth who has been diagnosed as autistic

Three years later, the courts dissolved the main political opposition party, the Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), which resulted in the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) winning every seat contested at the 2018 election.

More than 100 CNRP supporters are currently before the courts on charges of incitement and treason, including a 16-year-old youth who has been diagnosed as autistic.

Soeng Sen Karuna, a spokesman for the human rights group Adhoc, noted that the WJP had placed Cambodia in the bottom rankings as it had in previous years.

He also told the Phnom Penh Post that legal enforcement and rule of law in Cambodia had been strongly criticized in regards to social justice for poor people, politics and freedom of expression, particularly by political analysts and human rights activists.

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“Based on these arguments, the evaluation for Cambodia reflects the criticisms,” he said.

The WJP said more than 138,000 families and over 4,200 legal enforcement officials and experts around the world were surveyed, adding that the rule of law referred to legal standards and accountability, just law, open government and access to justice.

It also found that the enforcement of the rule of law in countries around the world had deteriorated during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among Southeast Asian nations surveyed, Singapore fared best at 19 with Malaysia at 54 and Indonesia placed at 68. Thailand fell two spots over the previous year to 80 ahead of Vietnam at 88, the Philippines at 102 and Myanmar at 128.

The top three countries were Denmark, Norway and Finland.

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