Freedom in the World
Cambodia received a downward trend arrow due to the deportation of 20 Uighur asylum-seekers to China in December 2009.
Land grabs and official corruption continued in 2009, and the government’s harassment of its critics appeared to worsen. Two opposition members of parliament were stripped of immunity; one was tried in absentia for defaming the prime minister, and the other was threatened with arrest for allegedly claiming that Vietnam is encroaching on Cambodia. The parliament also approved a new penal code which opponents argue will allow for government abuse. Separately, the international tribunal trying former high-ranking officials of the Khmer Rouge regime heard its first testimony in March, and Cambodian authorities in December deported 20 Uighur asylum-seekers to China despite human rights concerns.
In an indication of China’s growing influence in the country, Cambodian authorities forcibly deported 20 Uighur asylum-seekers, including two infants, to China in December, despite warnings from UN officials and human rights groups that they could face torture or other mistreatment for alleged involvement in fomenting unrest.
Cambodia is not an electoral democracy. The current constitution was promulgated in 1993 by the king, who serves as head of state. The monarchy remains highly revered as a symbol of national unity. Prince Norodom Sihamoni, who has lived abroad for much of his life, succeeded his father, King Norodom Sihanouk, in 2004 after the latter abdicated for health reasons.
Women suffer widespread economic and social discrimination, lagging behind men in secondary and higher education, and many die from difficulties related to pregnancy and childbirth. Rape and domestic violence are common and are often tied to alcohol and drug abuse by men. Women and girls are trafficked inside and outside of Cambodia for prostitution, and the sex trade has fueled the spread of HIV/AIDS. A 2008 law against human trafficking imposes tougher penalties, but enforcement is said to be weak.