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World Bank Warns Cambodia

The World Bank says the government of Cambodia's recent arrests of opposition political figures undermines its development strategy, which stresses, equality, broad participation in government, transparency, accountability, and the rule of law. "The continuing detentions of leading figures from the political opposition, trade unions, the media and [non-governmental organizations]," the World Bank statement said, "will send a worrying message to potential investors and Cambodia's development partners about Cambodia's commitment to openness, transparency and sustainable development."

On January 4th, authorities detained Pa Nguon Teang, deputy director of the U.S.-funded Cambodia Center for Human Rights. Authorities had already taken into custody Kem Sokha, the center's director, and Yeng Virak, director of Cambodia's Community Legal Education Center. They were detained on December 31st and charged with criminal defamation for their public criticism of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Ou Virak, spokesman for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, is calling foreign investors and donors, such as the World Bank, to pressure the Cambodian government to permit dissent:

"I want to appeal to all the democratic-loving people around the world to make sure to help build a democratic Cambodia, to ensure that we will have the protection of human rights, to ensure that the Cambodian people will receive the benefit of development of true democracy."

Political opposition in Cambodia has been effectively silenced in the wake of systematic government repression. Opposition leader Sam Rainsy fled the country in 2005 fearing arrest and has since been convicted in absentia of defaming government leaders and sentenced to eighteen months in prison. Mr. Rainsy had accused the government of involvement in a 1997 attack on an anti-government rally in which at least sixteen Cambodians were killed and more than a hundred others injured.

The United States has condemned the Cambodian government's efforts to suppress the peaceful expression of political views. "This is the latest in a series of arrests and lawsuits targeting critics of the Cambodian government," says State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, "and the cumulative effect of which is to call into question the Cambodian government's commitment to democracy and human rights."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.