Phnom Penh, June 28 (IANS) Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has become a “fully fledged military dictator”, according to a new Human Rights Watch report released on Thursday.
The report titled “Cambodia’s Dirty Dozen”, names the 12 military personnel who have been the “backbone” of Hun Sen’s “abusive and authoritarian political regime”, which he has led since 1985, reports The Guardian.
Many of this group of 12 have served in the Khmer Rouge military — the Communist regime which saw the execution, starvation, and disease of an estimated 1.2 to 2.8 million Cambodians (between 13 and 30% of the population) between 1975 and 1979.
According to the report, Hun Sen has “remained in power by creating a cadre of ruthless members of the security forces to implement his vision and orders”.
While Hun Sen has always been notorious for his autocratic rule and his use of force against anyone who defied him, his crackdown on the opposition, the media and civil society has escalated in the past year.
Hun Sen has dissolved the opposition party, the CNRP, shut down the Cambodia Daily newspaper, Radio Free Asia and dozens of local radio stations.
Journalists, opposition politicians and civil society leaders are now in jail and an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship has gripped the country, the report said.
“Hun Sen really has become a fully-fledged military dictator, a fact that he hopes to hide behind the fig-leaf of a national election in July that will be neither free nor fair,” said Phil Roberton, deputy director of Human Rights Asia.
“At each step of the way in his years in power, Hun Sen has sought to centralise control over the military and police under his direct command, aided by this group of dangerous men,” the Guardian quoted Robertson as saying.