Prime Minister Hun Sen had indicated earlier that emergency powers would be called for to tackle the outbreak. As Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s Party holds every seat in the National Assembly, the law passed unanimously.
Hun Sen strongly defended the new legislation and rejected any criticism that the government was using the pandemic as an opportunity to enact the state of emergency law to silence people and abuse freedom of expression. In the case of a ‘rebellion’ or ‘overthrow of the government’, Hun Sen emphasized that authorities could still take stern measures, even without the ‘state of emergency’ law.
Cambodia’s government under Hun Sen is known for controlling the media and curtailing press freedom. IFJ’s South East Media Freedom Report 2019 revealed that media freedom in the country is ‘seriously declining’, with ongoing threats of arrest and detainment by authorities. A series of repressive policies have been blamed for the deterioration.
Cambodia had reported 122 positive cases of Covid-19, with no new cases for two consecutive days with zero death as of Tuesday, April 14.
The IFJ said: “Tackling the pandemic should in no way be used as a justification to further crackdown on human rights and media freedom in Cambodia. The IFJ condemns the approval of the state of emergency legislation and calls on the government to protect the health of its citizens rather than violating democracy.”