Human Rights in Asia
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Human Rights in Asia

Edited by Thomas W.D. Davis and Brian Galligan

Does the increasing prominence of Asia also mark a new era for human rights in the region? This timely book uncovers the political drivers behind both recent regional and country-based changes to the recognition, promotion and protection of rights.
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Chapter 8: The Challenge for Human Rights in Cambodia

Sorpong Peou


This chapter makes three main arguments about the human rights situation in Cambodia. The first is that it has improved when put in a historical context, especially when compared to the period from 1970 to 1991, which began with a brutal civil war that led to the Khmer Rouge regime’s reign of terror and ended with the subsequent socialist regime’s agreement to turn the battlefield into a ballot-box. Still, human rights challenges remain. Although socio-cultural rights have been generally protected, socio-economic rights have often been abused, and political rights and civil liberties have been threatened. The second argument is that human rights violations have largely stemmed from a weak system of institutional checks and balances. Civilian and military members of the executive branch of government have ruled practically unchecked. The third argument is that cultural, historical and ideological legacies help to explain the persistence of institutional weaknesses. More importantly, the political elites’ relentless struggle for political supremacy has hampered institution building efforts by the international community, whose willingness and ability to take collective action for human rights remain limited because of security politics within Cambodia and the East-Asian region.

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