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20 Apr 2020

Narin Sun, VOA

Cambodia: Senate approves controversial draft Law on a State of Emergency amid international criticism of restricting fundamental freedoms & human rights

"Senate Approves Controversial ‘State of Emergency’ Law, Heads to Constitutional Council", 18 April 2020

The one-party controlled Senate unanimously voted … to pass the draft “state of emergency” legislation, a law widely criticized for giving the government widespread powers to curtail fundamental freedoms and rights.

The draft legislation, which passed the Senate – a deliberative body – without any amendments, would allow for the curbing of fundamental freedoms of movement, expression, association, and assembly – all enshrined in the Cambodian Constitution – and has been widely criticized by rights groups.

Senate spokesperson and Senator Mam Bunneang said the draft was passed by 54 of the 62 senators in the upper house, without any changes. Eight senators were absent…

The law now heads to the Constitutional Council after which it will be signed into law, likely by acting Head of State and Senate President Say Chhum, in the absence of King Norodom Sihamoni…

Koeut Rith called anyone who criticized the law “not a friend of Cambodia,” while still touting his intent to protect rights, including freedom of expression.

But Rhona Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, said in a statement on Friday that “the law endangers human rights” including the right to privacy, free speech and criminalized peaceful assembly.

“The broadly worded language on the protection of national security and public order, ostensibly aimed at addressing COVID-19, can potentially be used to infringe on the right to privacy and unnecessarily restrict freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” read the statement.

The law should be more focused on addressing public health needs while also protecting fundamental freedoms, added Rhona Smith…