Kem Sokha (R), leader of the now-banned Cambodia National Rescue Party greets supporters at a rally in Phnom Penh in this June 2 photo. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the closure Cambodian Center for Human Rights, a rights group that Kem Sokha founded. (Photo by Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP)
Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the country’s interior ministry to shut the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), a leading human rights group, according to Human Rights Watch.
The move comes on the heels of the prosecution of opposition leader Kem Sokha, who founded the CCHR, and the dissolution of his Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP).
In a speech to garment workers on Nov 26, Hun Sen said that: "The Center for Human Rights in Phnom Penh must be closed down, because this one does what it’s told by foreigners. … The Ministry of Interior should look it over because this one was created by foreigners, not by the Khmer."
Kem Sokha established the CCHR in 2002 and resigned from the group in 2007 to return to politics. The center, based in Phnom Penh, has worked on various issues to promote respect for fundamental rights recognized under international human rights law. These include human rights education, rural land rights, and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. The center has also provided free legal aid to victims of human rights violations.
"Prime Minister Hun Sen needed little time after shutting down the main opposition party to go after a major human rights group," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The prime minister is showing his fear not only of free elections, but of free expression and association."