In 1993 Cambodia experienced a democratic and human rights
revolution. Despite killings, threats, and intimidation by the
Khmer Rouge, 90 percent of voters participated in the free and
fair elections in May--the first in decades--thus providing the
opportunity for long-term democratic evolution. Political
violence and intimidation by forces of the Phnom Penh regime
marred the election campaign. However, in the latter half of
1993, the situation dramatically improved and there were no
substantiated cases of political killings. The Khmer Rouge
(KR) (also known as the Party of Democratic Kampuchea--PDK)
insurgency continues to pose an armed threat to the new
Government. Moreover, Cambodia lacks the institutions and
adequate numbers of trained personnel needed for a mature
From April 1975 until January 1979 the PDK ruled Cambodia and
compiled one of the worst records of human rights abuse in this
century. Between one-seventh and one-eighth of the population
died of exhaustion, disease, abuse, and execution.
In 1979 the PDK were ejected from power by the invading
Vietnamese army. Hanoi installed an authoritarian regime, made
up largely of former PDK cadre, called the People's Republic of
Kampuchea and later renamed the State of Cambodia--SOC.
Vietnamese arms maintained the SOC in power against remnants of
the PDK and the non-Communist resistance under Prince
Sihanouk. In September 1989, after 11 years of military
occupation and stalemate, the Vietnamese withdrew the bulk of
Under the October 1991 Paris Accords, the United Nations
created the U.N. Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) and
dispatched a 22,000-strong civilian and military peacekeeping
force to conduct free and fair elections for a constituent
assembly. During this interim period, a Cambodian Supreme
National Council (SNC) embodied Cambodian sovereignty. Over 4
million Cambodians voted in the May 1993 elections, although
the PDK barred some people in the 10 to 15 percent of the
country (holding 6 percent of the population) it controls from
participating. Prince Ranariddh's FUNCINPEC Party, the SOC's
Cambodian People's Party (CPP), and Son Sann's Buddhist Liberal
Democratic Party (BLDP) were the top vote recipients,
respectively. The parties represented in the 120-member
Assembly formed a Provisional National Government of Cambodia
(PNGC) on July 1. The Assembly proceeded to draft and approve
a new Constitution which was promulgated September 24. It
establishes a multiparty liberal democracy in the framework of
a constitutional monarchy. FUNCINPEC and the CPP share power
in the new Royal Cambodian Government. The Constitution
provides for a wide range of internationally recognized human
In 1989 the State of Cambodia (SOC) began to institute reforms
to change the small, predominantly agricultural economy from a
centrally planned to a market-oriented system. Legislation in
1989 restored the right to own and inherit property, and
agricultural production is now mostly private and family
based. These reforms, together with growing foreign investment
and international aid, spurred a surge of economic activity,
especially in Phnom Penh. Nevertheless, Cambodia remains one
of the world's poorest countries. Per capita gross domestic
product is less than $200.
In 1993 Cambodia made great strides in human rights. The
fledgling independent media grew to include opposition radio
and television stations as well as numerous Khmer and
foreign-language publications. The membership of indigenous
human rights groups swelled, and international organizations
such as Amnesty International and Asia Watch were able to visit
Cambodia. The remainder of the 370,000 Cambodian refugees who
had been living mostly in camps along the Thai-Cambodian border
were voluntarily repatriated under the direction of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In the latter
half of 1993, for the first time in decades, there were no
political prisoners being held in Cambodia, except possibly
persons detained in Khmer Rouge areas. In 1991 and 1992 SOC
authorities had released nearly 2,000 political prisoners.
Without SOC agreement, implementation, and relinquishing of
significant power in this and other areas, Cambodia's human
rights progress in 1993, particularly the enormous increase in
political openness, and ability to compete would not have
Nevertheless, during the election campaign, SOC security forces
engaged in extensive intimidation and political violence,
mostly against the FUNCINPEC and BLDP parties. Between
November 1992 and the May elections, UNTAC documented the
politically motivated killings of 74 opposition party members.
One hundred twenty-six opposition party members were injured
during the same period due to political violence. Many of
these acts were attributed to SOC police or soldiers. In some
cases, the SOC authorities frustrated UNTAC's investigations of
these incidents. The SOC did not take effective action against
any of the perpetrators of this violence.
The PDK prohibited the U.N. and international human rights
monitors from entering its zones. Based on reports from PDK
defectors, it is clear that the 6 percent of Cambodians living
under PDK rule enjoy few basic human rights. Moreover, the PDK
carried out a violent campaign to destabilize the SOC
administration and to discourage Cambodians from voting. PDK
violence included the detention of 43 U.N. personnel. Eighteen
U.N. personnel died during the mission from hostile action.
UNTAC attributed 11 of the killings to the PDK.
Racial violence against ethnic Vietnamese remained an egregious
human rights problem. Antipathy toward ethnic Vietnamese is
common in Cambodian society and figured in the rhetoric of
several political parties. In 1993 PDK armed forces carried
out brutal massacres of ethnic Vietnamese civilians which
claimed the lives of 70 people. In addition, government armed
forces have been guilty of looting the civilian population
during campaigns against the PDK armed forces.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Political violence swelled in the period leading up to the
U.N.-sponsored May elections and then dropped off
dramatically. Violence by SOC authorities directed against
opposition political party members began almost immediately
with the arrival of opposition parties in Phnom Penh in late
1991. In 1992 members of the FUNCINPEC and BLDP parties were
the main targets of this violence, although the Action for
Democracy and Development Party and the Liberal Democratic
Party also complained of attacks. There was an upsurge of
violence between November 1992 and January 1993, apparently
coincident with the evident growing popularity and activity of
opposition parties in the provinces. During this period UNTAC
confirmed the death or injury of 96 FUNCINPEC and BLDP members
in politically motivated attacks, many of which were attributed
to the SOC.
Political violence crested again beginning in March with the
official onset of the political campaign. Between March and
the conclusion of the elections at the end of May, UNTAC
confirmed that 42 FUNCINPEC and BLDP members were killed and 72
injured in political violence. UNTAC was able to confirm the
responsibility of SOC officials or police for 12 of the
Following the elections, there was a short burst of political
violence associated with the abortive secession movement led by
Prince Norodom Chakrapong. In Prey Veng and Kompong Cham
provinces, crowds incited by the secession leaders looted UNTAC
buildings and threatened some UNTAC workers. The FUNCINPEC
party alleged that several of its members were killed in the
violence, a claim that has not been confirmed. SOC authorities
took no effective action to apprehend or punish any of the
perpetrators of this violence.
Throughout 1993 the PDK continued an aggressive campaign of
attacks on SOC officials at the village and commune level in an
effort to destabilize the SOC regime. The PDK policy took on
greater momentum as the PDK sought to delegitimize the
electoral process and terrorize Cambodians to dissuade them
from voting. UNTAC confirmed 216 such killings and 342
injuries inflicted by the PDK during UNTAC's mission. (These
figures include ethnic Vietnamese victims.) According to one
unconfirmed report, the PDK were responsible for killing as
many as 10 PDK military defectors.
PDK violence also extended to UNTAC personnel. Eighteen UNTAC
employees were killed and 67 injured, although responsibility
for these actions could not always be determined.
Opposition political parties, especially FUNCINPEC and the
BLDP, and the CPP claimed that numerous party activists and
local officials disappeared during the course of the election
campaign. UNTAC investigated as many of these allegations as
possible. UNTAC concluded that, in approximately 12 months
from mid-1992 to mid-1993, SOC elements were responsible for
the abduction or disappearance of 17 opposition activists.
UNTAC also concluded that the PDK abducted 188 Cambodians and
ethnic Vietnamese during the same period. After the elections,
abductions dropped off.
In one case, SOC military officers abducted four FUNCINPEC
activists from their homes the evening of January 31-February 1
in Sangke district, Battambang province. Based on eyewitness
testimony, the four were believed to have been taken to a SOC
military base by seven SOC officers. SOC officials refused to
produce the seven and then obstructed UNTAC's attempts to
In 1993 the PDK continued its policy of destabilizing the SOC
administration by killing and abducting members of the SOC
local and provincial administrations. Targets frequently
included village heads or local police. Attacks on SOC
villages often involved looting as well. Abductions attributed
to the PDK also included kidnaping of villagers for ransom and
abduction of ethnic Vietnamese who were later killed.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment
Conditions in Cambodian prisons prior to the arrival of UNTAC
in late 1991 were deplorable, including shackling, solitary
confinement, poor sanitation, inadequate food, and limited or
no health care. Prisoners regularly died from neglect. In
1992 consistent intervention by UNTAC and the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) improved conditions
substantially. UNTAC induced SOC authorities to halt the
practice of shackling in mid-1992, but they began to practice
it subsequently as punishment.
With the departure of UNTAC in late 1993, conditions in
Cambodian prisons deteriorated. The ICRC and an indigenous
human rights organization, Licadho, took separate actions to
improve water, food, and medical treatment. However, by year's
end, there were again numerous cases of beri-beri,
tuberculosis, and other illness resulting in some deaths.
Torture was not common in Cambodian prisons in 1993. However,
there were numerous reports of torture in Battambang Provincial
Prison, including burnings and beatings of prisoners, prior to
the elections. UNTAC investigations confirmed the
allegations. UNTAC issued a warrant for the arrest of Ten
Seng, the chief of prison guards. In September UNTAC handed
Ten Seng over to Cambodian authorities and, in November, a
Cambodian court convicted him of aggravated assault and
sentenced him to 1 year in jail.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Prior to 1993 the criminal justice system in Cambodia was
essentially dysfunctional. Warrants for arrest were never
employed. Police and secret security forces attached to the
then Ministry of National Security arrested people in an
arbitrary fashion. Detainees were often held incommunicado.
The formal charging of prisoners with crimes was the exception,
not the rule.
In September 1992, UNTAC issued a transitional criminal law
that outlined basic procedures for arrest and prosecution. The
Supreme National Council of Cambodia adopted the law and a slow
process of translation and elaboration ensued. Unfortunately,
during 1993 the Government never implemented the law, with the
exception of the requirement for bail. Corrupt officials often
kept the bail money for their own profit.
UNTAC successfully instigated judicial review of numerous cases
in which prisoners were held without adequate evidence or
charges, resulting in the release of 370 prisoners.
In 1993 in the non-Communist zones, military officers regularly
detained individuals accused of crimes and meted out summary
punishment on the spot. In June FUNCINPEC authorities
completed the construction of a grossly inadequate prison in
the FUNCINPEC-controlled zone. Under UNTAC direction, the
Kampuchean Peoples National Liberation Armed Forces (KPNLAF)
built a prison in Thmar Puok. The PDK is thought to maintain
security locations at which prisoners are held. However,
little is known about these facilities.
On January 8, UNTAC issued orders to permit a UNTAC special
prosecutor to initiate arrests in cases of gross human rights
abuses. SOC authorities sometimes frustrated UNTAC's efforts
to apprehend SOC officials accused of human rights violations.
However, UNTAC successfully arrested four persons. Of the four
arrested, one died of natural causes. The Ministry of Justice
has accepted the other three for prosecution.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The 1993 Constitution of the Kingdom of Cambodia provides for
due process and the independence of the judiciary, and it
establishes the principle of presumed innocence. However,
Cambodia lacks the trained professionals to implement these
principles. The structure of the future judicial system is to
be defined by subsequent law.
In 1993, for most of Cambodia, the existing judicial system
remained that outlined in the 1989 SOC Constitution, which
provides for provincial courts with judges and assessors named
by state officials. In practice, the judiciary was directly
dependent on political authorities and was an instrument of the
Government. This system applied to only about 10 percent of
those arrested. For most trials, police files, sometimes
including confessions coerced from prisoners, were accepted as
prima facie evidence of guilt.
There was no functioning judicial system in 1993 in the areas
outside Communist control, where martial law was the rule. No
legal system is known to exist in PDK zones.
The Paris Accords mandated the release of all political
prisoners and prisoners of war. In 1991 and early 1992, SOC
authorities released nearly 2,000, half under ICRC
supervision. In 1993 there were no political prisoners held by
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home or
There were numerous cases of arbitrary forced entry into homes
and offices and seizure of possessions including documents by
SOC security officials in 1993, particularly in connection with
the election campaign. Opposition party offices were often
targets. While security forces carried out surveillance of
some persons, there was evidence that the large security
apparatus developed by the SOC with Vietnamese assistance over
the past decade had begun to dissolve.
The competing political parties used various means to increase
party membership prior to the May elections. CPP party
membership swelled to over 3 million, substantially more than
the CPP vote tally at the polls. SOC civil servants, students,
and soldiers were regularly coerced into joining the CPP and
campaigning for it. However, after the election, this coercion
g. Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian
Law in Internal Conflicts
Despite the Paris Accords prohibition, cease-fire violations
continued in 1993. Villagers and townspeople were frequently
victims of indiscriminate shelling principally by SOC and PDK
forces in scattered fighting in Kompong Thom, Siem Reap, Preah
Vihear, and Banteay Meanchey provinces. Forces of the PDK and
also the SOC continued to lay unmarked minefields, adding to an
already enormous problem.
The PDK carried out several attacks in 1993 intended
specifically to terrorize the general population. On May 5,
for example, PDK soldiers attacked the train traveling from
Battambang to Phnom Penh. Of the 500 people on the train, 20
were killed and 100 were wounded. The PDK soldiers and local
villagers then looted the train. In another raid, PDK soldiers
opened fire on a house in which people were watching a video
film in Kompong Thom province, killing 20 and injuring 35
others. However, with the high level of banditry in Cambodia,
it was not always possible to determine whether actions were
those of an armed party to the conflict or simply local
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Before 1992 freedom of speech and press were severely
restricted. However, the Paris Accords provided for this
freedom for all persons in Cambodia. The SNC codified this
right on January 15, 1992. The juridical underpinnings of this
fundamental freedom were further defined in the 1993
Constitution. That document states "Cambodian citizens shall
enjoy freedom of expression, press, publication and
association." However, the Constitution limits free speech by
requiring that speech not adversely affect public security and
be carried out in accordance with law. The National Assembly
has yet to implement legislation to clarify this problem.
In practice, Cambodians enjoyed unprecedented flowering of free
speech in 1993. The print media consisted of exactly one
government controlled newspaper in 1991. In 1993 there were
over 57 different newspapers, bulletins, and magazines produced
by the political parties, indigenous human rights
organizations, and independent publishers, including one French
language and three English language newspapers. The import and
sale of foreign publications is unrestricted.
Cambodia has one government-run television station, one
commercial television station operated by a Thai concern, a
FUNCINPEC television station, and a French-language television
station operated by the French Government. Until late
September, UNTAC operated an extremely popular radio station
which provided independent news and served as an outlet for all
20 political parties. Cambodians also had access to a FUNCINPEC
radio station and PDK radio, both of which had limited
broadcast ranges inside the country.
Self-censorship remains a concern in Cambodia. With the
withdrawal of UNTAC, independent Cambodian media became more
guarded in their criticism of the Government. In October a
government spokesman warned the media that criticism of the
King is contrary to Khmer traditions. While there are no
penalties now envisaged, the Constitution declares that the
King is "inviolable," possibly laying the basis for future lese
majeste laws. The King has disavowed the government criticism.
There is no freedom of speech in areas under PDK control.
According to PDK defectors, in some instances people in PDK
areas were prohibited from listening to UNTAC or other radio
stations. Given the bloody history of the PDK, Cambodians
living under PDK control frequently are afraid to discuss
political matters publicly.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of peaceful assembly was assured by the SNC as well as
by the new Constitution. During the 1993 election campaign,
there were thousands of campaign rallies mounted by the 20
registered political parties in all provinces of the country,
despite the threat of Khmer Rouge activities in the cities.
During the election, thousands of Cambodians participated in a
peace march across the country. Nevertheless, there were signs
of resistance to peaceful assembly, mostly by SOC authorities,
during the course of the political campaign. There were
numerous instances in which local SOC officials demanded the
right to approve rallies themselves or stopped rallies that had
not obtained advance approval by UNTAC.
Nevertheless, as a sign of changing attitudes, in October 400
to 500 students marched in Phnom Penh to protest government
education policies. This was the first such demonstration
since students were fired upon by police during protests in
December 1991. In October the march took place peacefully,
with police clearing the path for the students. Top government
officials publicly defended their right to peaceful assembly
and, as a result, several other peaceful demonstrations took
place in November and December.
c. Freedom of Religion
Buddhism is the state religion. The Constitution provides for
freedom of religion and forbids discrimination based on
Buddhism, Christianity, and especially Islam were nearly wiped
out under PDK rule from 1975 to 1979. Until 1989 Buddhism made
only a slow return as the clergy were still regarded with some
suspicion by the ruling CPP. However, in 1989 a Buddhist
renaissance commenced with the assistance of the CPP's front
organization. Islam has also regained a strong foothold among
the Cham population, and mosques are being refurbished around
the country. Christianity, ruled "legal" in April 1990, is
practiced openly. In 1993 Christian churches began to open in
some outlying Cambodian provinces.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Travel within government-controlled parts of Cambodia is
unrestricted. The presence of mines and bandits makes travel
in some areas perilous, however. The PDK severely restricted
travel within its zones, refused UNTAC access to some PDK
areas, detained UNTAC personnel who ventured in, and, on
occasion, fired on UNTAC personnel overflying PDK zones in
helicopters. There were reliable reports that, in some cases,
movement by Cambodians in the PDK zones even to neighboring
villages required permission from village heads.
UNTAC thoroughly liberalized the SOC's visa and passport
issuing procedures. Although corruption continues to be a
problem in obtaining travel documents, travel outside Cambodia
is not systematically restricted. Exile is expressly forbidden
by the Constitution.
In 1992 over 370,000 Cambodians resided in refugee camps in
Thailand. As an integral component of the Paris Accords, all
the refugees returned to Cambodia in security and dignity under
the auspices of the UNHCR in time to participate in the May
Tens of thousands of ethnic Vietnamese fled Cambodia in early
1993 due to racial violence. Many returned overland after the
elections. However, several thousand on boats were stopped by
authorities on the Mekong River and were forbidden entry.
Although the vast majority of these people were born in
Cambodia, the Government insisted it would deal with the ethnic
Vietnamese as an immigration issue. At year's end, the problem
was still unresolved.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
In 1993, for the first time in decades, Cambodians had the
right and the ability peacefully to change their government.
The electoral process conducted by UNTAC culminated in the
establishment of the new Royal Government of Cambodia in
UNTAC and the Cambodians faced many obstacles. The SOC used
political violence and intimidation to cow opposition political
parties and to try to frighten the electorate into voting for
the CPP. The PDK used propaganda, obstruction, terror, and
military attacks to try to prevent the election. PDK soldiers
frequently confiscated or destroyed Cambodians' voter cards and
threatened voters that there would be consequences if they
voted in the elections. These efforts largely failed. While
UNTAC was unable to achieve "a neutral political environment,"
20 parties competed, 96 percent of eligible voters registered,
and, despite PDK threats and foul weather, between May 23 and
28, 90 percent of registered voters cast ballots. Numerous
independent observers and the U.N. Security Council declared
the elections free and fair. One clear indication of this was
that an opposition party, FUNCINPEC, won 46 percent of the vote
compared to only 38 percent for the CPP.
On September 24, the Constitution, drafted and approved by the
Assembly, was promulgated, establishing a Constitutional
Monarchy with Norodom Sihanouk as King. The Constitution
provides for a multiparty, liberal democratic system with
separation of powers, an independent judiciary, and a monarch
who reigns but does not rule. The document calls for new
nationwide legislative elections every 5 years. The Government
is now preparing plans to institute elections at the village
and commune level.
The new legitimate Government was formed through negotiation
between the FUNCINPEC and CPP parties. This compromise, which
grants the CPP half of the cabinet positions, was reached
against the backdrop of an abortive June secession movement,
led by CPP member Prince Norodom Chakrapong. Although the
secession movement quickly collapsed, it constituted an
illegitimate pressure on the process of forming a new
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
Twenty-seven independent indigenous nongovernmental
organizations (NGO's) carried out human rights activities in
Cambodia in 1993. The four largest of these had combined
membership of over 150,000. They engaged in diverse activities
ranging from basic human rights monitoring to education to
prison visits to public seminars on the new Constitution. By
the end of 1993, the NGO's were able to bring complaints to a
human rights committee of the National Assembly, and several
issued periodic bulletins about their activities.
The effectiveness of the nascent human rights NGO's was
magnified by their ability to work with and receive support
from UNTAC and the successor U.N. Human Rights Center Field
Office in Phnom Penh. UNTAC had a staff of 40 human rights
monitors until September, present in all 21 provinces. In
addition, 3,400 UNTAC civilian police assisted in human rights
investigations. The military component of UNTAC used a
strategic investigation team equipped with helicopters to
investigate the most egregious human rights violations.
Amnesty International, Asia Watch, and the Lawyers Committee
for Human Rights also visited Cambodia in 1993.
While human rights investigators moved freely in
government-controlled areas, no human rights groups were
permitted entry into PDK zones.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion,
Disability, Language, or Social Status
The new Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race,
color, sex, language, religious belief, or political views.
However, with no effective means of implementing these
guarantees, the most vulnerable elements of Cambodian society
are often victims of discrimination.
The new Constitution contains strong language providing for
equal rights for women, equal pay for equal work, and equal
status in marriage. In practice, women have equal property
rights with men, have the same status in bringing divorce
proceedings, and have equal access to education and some jobs.
However, tradition still prohibited many women from reaching
the highest positions in many areas. Independent women's
associations flourished in 1993, and the leaders of two of the
most prominent human rights NGO's are women.
International aid workers confirm that violence against women,
including rape as well as domestic violence, is common,
although there are still no systematic studies to determine the
extent of the problem. Authorities normally decline to become
involved in such "private" disputes. Prostitution, prohibited
by the new Constitution, is nevertheless common in Phnom Penh.
Children are a vulnerable group in Cambodia. They are often
victims of landmines and there is evidence of nascent child
prostitution among street children in Phnom Penh. The new
Constitution explicitly protects children's rights. Ensuring
the welfare of children is also a specific goal of the
government's political program. However, the Government must
rely on international aid to fund most social welfare programs
targeted at children, and, therefore, resources devoted to the
goal are modest.
Vietnamese and Chinese have long been the largest ethnic
minorities in Cambodia. Ethnic Chinese are now well accepted.
However, fear and animosity toward the Vietnamese, who are seen
as a threat to the Khmer nation and culture, remain among
Cambodians. In 1993 the PDK sought to exploit these feelings
through a calculated campaign of racial violence directed
against ethnic Vietnamese civilians. The PDK, whose legitimacy
suffered in the May elections, sought to show that they were
the true nationalists and to provoke opposition to the SOC,
which was installed in 1979 by a Vietnamese invasion.
Amnesty International has documented 15 racially motivated
attacks in 1993 resulting in 70 deaths and 60 wounded.
Innocent women, children, and elderly persons were beaten or
shot to death. A typical incident occurred March 10 in the
floating village of Chong Khneas on the Tonle Sap lake in Siem
Reap province when 20 men entered the village at dusk on boats
and opened fire with AK-47 assault rifles on villagers in their
houseboats and in a video parlor for 15 to 30 minutes.
Eighteen people were killed and 15 were injured.
The Cambodian authorities did not react energetically to these
attacks. SOC police just 300 meters from Chong Khneas village
did not attempt to intervene. King Sihanouk publicly condemned
the killings of ethnic Vietnamese. However, it was only on
July 24, after four major attacks, that the provisional
government publicly condemned the attacks. Only one person was
arrested in connection with all these attacks--and then by
UNTAC. (The accused subsequently died of natural causes.)
Constituent Assembly members debated whether rights provided
for in the new Constitution extended to ethnic Vietnamese. The
Assembly decided to defer the matter for future legislation.
People with Disabilities
Cambodia has the highest percentage of handicapped persons in
the world; one in 286 Cambodians is missing at least one limb.
Programs administered by various NGO's have brought about
dramatic improvements in the treatment and rehabilitation of
amputees. Although the handicapped are often looked upon as a
burden by poor families, rehabilitation programs have improved
how they are perceived. Accessibility for the handicapped is
not mandated either legislatively or otherwise.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Eighty percent of Cambodians are subsistence rice farmers. A
large proportion of the urban population are engaged in
low-level commerce or are self-employed as craftspeople. A
majority of salaried workers are employed by the State,
although there is a growing service sector and a small
industrial sector. The new Constitution provides for the
organization of trade unions "as stipulated by law." Until
future implementing legislation is passed, the relevant law is
the Labor Law passed by the SOC in August 1992.
The 1992 law reflected consultations with the International
Labor Organization and international labor law experts and is
similar to labor laws in market economy countries. It states
that workers have the right to form unions of their own
choosing without previous authorization. The law does not
require that unions join a single trade union structure and
contains no provisions regarding whether a union may
participate in political activity. However, there is a wide
gap between the provisions of the labor law and the reality of
labor conditions in Cambodia today. No other unions currently
exist apart from those in the formerly SOC-controlled
Kampuchean Federation of Trade Unions, an organization which
was inactive in 1993. A new organization of pedicab drivers
and other transport workers holds the potential of developing
into an independent union.
The new Constitution guarantees the right to strike, "in
accordance with law." Implementing legislation is still
lacking. During 1993 some workers from state enterprises took
action when their factories were sold and closed. They carried
out informal strikes which were promptly settled with
government intervention, usually via cash payments.
The Labor Law permits unions to join federations but does not
address whether they may be affiliated with international
bodies. The Kampuchean Federation of Trade Unions is a member
of the formerly Soviet-controlled World Federation of Trade
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
Collective bargaining is protected under the labor law,
although any agreement reached between workers and employers is
subject to approval by the Government. However, collective
bargaining does not currently exist in practice. Civil servant
wages are set by the Government. Wage rates in other sectors
are set largely by the market. The Labor Law prohibits
antiunion discrimination by employers. A number of offices in
the new Government have conducted elections for workers'
representatives. They participate in all decisions.
No export processing zones exist.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Labor Law prohibits forced or compulsory labor, but there
is inadequate inspection to enforce it. The Labor Law contains
penal sanctions for offenders. There are no reports that
domestic or foreign workers are being forced to remain in
situations amounting to coerced labor. Prisons in
SOC-controlled areas were inspected by UNTAC and international
human rights groups, and there were no reports of prison
labor. There are widespread reports that the PDK compels
people under its control to serve as porters for military and
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The Labor Law states that the minimum age for employment is 16,
except for persons under age 16 working in an enterprise in
which all workers are members of a family and under the
supervision of a father, mother, or guardian. Although
penalties exist for violators of these provisions, the
Government has not yet established an apparatus to enforce
them. Out of economic necessity, persons under the age of 16
years engage in a variety of jobs. These include street
trading, construction, and small-scale manufacturing.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The Labor Law does not provide for a nationwide minimum wage.
However, it does require that every laborer receive a minimum
wage that assures a decent living standard. The wage can vary
according to regions. Currently, market-determined wage rates
at lower levels are not sufficient to provide a decent living
for a worker and family.
The Labor Law provides for a standard legal work week of 48
hours and a 24-hour rest period. The law requires overtime
payment at a rate set by the Government. These standards are
not enforced and workers commonly work more than 48 hours per
week and 8 hours per day. The law states that the workplace
should have health and safety standards necessary to ensure the
workers' well-being. However, the Government has yet to set
specific standards. Penalties are specified in the law, but
there are no provisions to protect workers who complain about
unsafe or unhealthful conditions. Conditions in factories and
small-scale industries are generally poor. Ventilation and
lighting are inadequate, sanitation facilities are poor, and
noise levels are significantly above international standards. (###)
Created before October 2004