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Just Deny… or Investigate and Clarify?

By: Norbert Klein Posted: July-26-2010 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 674

After the acting Asia Director of Human Rights Watch had presented a report Off the Streets: Arbitrary Detention and Other Abuses against Sex Workers in Cambodia to the press, and this was reported on 21.7.2010, on the following day of 22.7.2010 t

here was already another press report: “The Government Dismissed the Report of Human Rights Watch.”

As this 76-pages report is based, as it states, on more than 90 interviews and group discussions with sex workers in Phnom Penh, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, and Siem Reap, one wonders how a government spokesperson could dismiss such a report on the day after its public presentation – a report that contains Testimonies from sex workers from around the country. The denial cannot be based on an investigation of the details and facts claimed to be real, with names and locations of witnesses, unless there is no respect for the persons quoted, not assuming that some of the terrible experiences they describe are correct and deserve legal clarification.

The press reported from the presentation that some of these cases were claimed to have happened: “Some members of the police abuse sex workers without ever receiving any punishment, and police punch them, beat them with rattan sticks, batons, and electric shock batons. In some cases, sex workers have been raped by police while they were in detention, and all sex workers have to pay bribes, or their money was simply stolen by police.”

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia says in Article 31:

Every Khmer citizens shall be equal before the law, enjoying the same rights, freedom and fulfilling the same obligations regardless of race, color, sex, language, religious belief, political tendency, birth origin, social status, wealth or other status.”

What are the implications – under the Constitution – when statements by Cambodian citizens who claim to have been victimized and abused by police, including the allegation of regular impunity, are dismissed and not taken up by agencies which should rather care for equal justice.

Human Rights Watch did not only report their observations, they also made practical proposals, as reported in the Khmer press:

“…the report of Human Rights Watch suggests the creation of a special committee to thoroughly and independently conduct investigations on violence and the extortion of money by law enforcement officials, by security guards working in the parks, and by staff or volunteers of municipal social rehabilitation centers; this committee should have representatives from the government who are capable and respectful, as well as from the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Department of Social Affairs, UN agencies, non-government organizations, and representatives of sex workers.”

It seems that all this has now been dismissed – and the alleged impunity may continue without being investigated? – No investigation and clarified about what was wrong, and what was true and has to be punished according to the laws of the country?

On 26.7.2010 the Extraordinary Chamber in the Courts of Cambodia – the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – will announce its first verdict, on the former head of the Tuol Sleng prison. He is the only one of the five persons facing the court who has not denied the accusations against him.

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 674 - Sunday, 25.7.2010
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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