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5 Mar 2021

Aun Chhengpor, VOA Khmer

Cambodia: Govt. introduce law on COVID-19 measures enabling for restrictions on civic freedoms and suspension of business; HRW claims the law imposes disproportionate fines and imprisonment

"National Assembly Clears COVID-19 Law with Harsh Prison Sentences", 5 March 2021

The Cambodian National Assembly … unanimously passed a draft bill that empowers the government to impose restrictions to curb the spread of infectious diseases but also contains strict prison sentences of up to 20 years.

The draft legislation, called “Law on Measures to Prevent the Spread of Covid-19 and other Serious, Dangerous and Contagious Diseases,” was approved by a special cabinet meeting … and passed by 83 Cambodian People’s Party lawmakers ...

The draft bill allows the government to impose health measures, like wearing masks, social distancing and quarantine measures, to quell the spread of infectious and contagious diseases, including COVID-19.

Administrative powers in the bill allow the government to restrict travel, prohibit business activities and cordon off areas with COVID-19.

The legislation also places severe prison sentences and fines for violating these measures. Escaping from self-quarantine can be punishable with up to 3 years in prison and anyone caught evading treatment or escaping a medical facility will face up to 10 years in prison.

The law will also allow the government to suspend a business’ operations or a firm’s license.

… The New York-based Human Rights Watch strongly criticized the draft legislation in a statement released Friday, calling it “draconian” and “disproportionate.”

“The bill contains overly broad and vague provisions that the authorities could easily abuse, and fails to provide any independent oversight or procedural safeguards,” read the statement.

Phil Robertson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, urged the government to scrap the legislation.

“Cambodia’s leaders should be seeking cooperation from Cambodians in the fight against COVID-19, not threatening them with years behind bars for violating health measures,” Robertson said…