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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        4  June 2011

Cambodia fails on free speech

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Cambodia is failing to address concerns about a worsening climate for freedom of expression, UN special rapporteur Surya Subedi in Cambodia said on Friday.

He has warned that Cambodia is failing to address concerns about a worsening climate for freedom of expression.

"The situation I'm afraid has not changed much with regards to freedom of speech. That's where I would like to see some progress made," Surya Subedi told reporters at the end of his fifth fact-finding mission to Cambodia.

Subedi said the situation had showed little improvement since his previous visit in February, when he voiced alarm over the narrowing space for people to express their views and told the government that criticism was not a crime.

"Because of the fear of possible charges of defamation, disinformation and incitement against them, many people such as journalists, human rights defenders and political activists seem to be resorting to self-censorship," he said at a news conference in the capital.

The Cambodian government has come under fire in recent years for launching a number of lawsuits against critics and opposition members.

Last year it also introduced a new penal code that makes it easier to jail a person for voicing dissent.

"People who should not be in prison in a properly functioning democracy are in prison," Subedi said, referring to the case of a World Food Programme employee who was jailed for six months in December for distributing material from an anti-government website.

Touching on the sensitive issue of land rights violations, a high-profile problem in Cambodia, he said "not much progress has been made".

He said he had visited some disputed sites, including a lake area in Phnom Penh where thousands of people are being forcibly evicted to make way for a private development project.

A rally by dozens of lake residents in April ended violently when baton-wielding policemen beat protesters, including elderly women, and made several arrests.

Subedi called the incident "regrettable" but said he was encouraged by the recent dialogue between the lake-dwellers and city officials.

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This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More


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