Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor

Part 1: Political and Human Rights Conditions

Cambodia is a constitutional monarchy with an elected government. Following the July 2008 national election, the Cambodian People's Party (CPP), led by Prime Minister Hun Sen, won 90 of 123 National Assembly seats. Most observers assessed that the election took place in an overall peaceful atmosphere with an improved process over past elections. However, observers noted the election did not fully meet international standards. The CPP continues to dominate the government, with most power concentrated in the hands of the prime minister. The government's human rights record remains poor due to the lack of political will to enforce the rule of law; extrajudicial killings; the abuse of detainees; the continuing problem of land disputes and forced evictions; restrictions on freedom of speech, press and, at times, assembly; trafficking in persons; and endemic corruption. However, the government took a positive step in 2008 by passing and implementing the Law on Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation which criminalized all forms of human trafficking.

Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

Strengthening the country's democratic system, supporting rule of law, reducing corruption, providing election support, and reinforcing protection of human rights are key priorities of the U.S. Government. As U.S. officials continue to promote enhanced democratic systems, supporting political and legal rights groups remain fundamental activities. Following the 2008 national election, the U.S. Government encourages the local government to be more accountable to its people in implementing its mandate. The U.S. Government encourages openness in public political discourse, political pluralism, and civic participation and responsibility. The U.S. Government seeks to strengthen NGOs that monitor and investigate human rights abuses and that advocate, support, and monitor legal and political rights. In addition, U.S. officials and U.S.-supported NGOs address the issues of land reform, use of restraint during legal evictions, and efforts to fight corruption. The U.S. Government supports the government's goal of eliminating trafficking in persons. The U.S. Government works to protect worker rights and combat the worst forms of child labor. U.S.-sponsored programs promote freedom of the press and civil rights and encourage equal access to educational and employment opportunities for the country's Muslim community.

Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

U.S. embassy officials use public fora and press events to deliver remarks on a range of topics related to good governance, including the conduct of free and fair elections; passage of an anticorruption law that meets international standards; the need for judicial reform and independence; government transparency; and respect for a free press. U.S. officials continue to discuss good governance and human rights concerns with numerous ministers and government officials, including Prime Minister Hun Sen and deputy prime ministers.

The U.S. Government urged a democratic, free, and fair 2008 national election open to all parties; however, observers noted the 2008 election did not fully meet international standards. Approximately two dozen embassy observers monitored election preparations throughout the country, calling on election officials, meeting with party representatives, and following up on allegations of irregularities. In 18 of 24 provinces, 47 embassy poll-watching teams monitored election-day activities. The U.S. Government supported programs that organized 22 debates involving 93 candidates from the 11 political parties; the debates were attended by more than 22,000 voters and followed by several million persons on radio and television. Two of the debates involved only female candidates, and the United States funded the radio broadcast of 13 women's forums, attended by 36 female candidates. Government accountability programs funded by the United States included 175 constituency dialogues in 10 provinces involving 55 National Assembly members and 73,400 citizens and support for commune council contact and consultation with underrepresented groups at the village level.

U.S. embassy officials continue to press for strengthening the rule of law and ensuring judicial independence while promoting the corruption-free administration of the courts. One U.S.-funded program launched a client counseling competition for law students. The same program installed signboards with public information in 21 courts throughout the country. The U.S. Government sponsors a pilot program at the Kandal province court to improve court transparency. The U.S. Government announced its direct support to the UN side of the hybrid Khmer Rouge Tribunal and strongly advocates for efforts to address allegations of corruption in the administration of the court. To aid in bringing to justice Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for Pol Pot-era atrocities, the United States continues to support the country's only independent NGO devoted to documenting the crimes against humanity committed by the former Khmer Rouge regime. U.S. efforts to promote media freedom centered on programs to educate journalists on their role in a democratic society and to improve the quality of reporting. The U.S. Government sponsored training and a competition on press coverage of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal and, separately, an investigative reporting competition in cooperation with the Club of Cambodian Journalists that encouraged journalists to develop in-depth reporting on local land disputes. The U.S. Government also translated and continued to distribute copies of An Effective Press Office, a publication that emphasizes the importance of a free press in democracies and the role that government officials play in media relations.

U.S. officials promote the opening of political space by supporting human rights groups that focus on access to civil, political, and legal rights. The United States provides funding for, engages with, and promotes local NGOs that provide investigative, legal, or other assistance related to alleged human rights abuses. A U.S.-funded local legal defense NGO continues to provide legal aid services for the poor. In addition, the United States funds programs to protect worker rights by monitoring labor conditions in garment factories, supporting a labor arbitration mechanism, and combating the worst forms of child labor. Combating trafficking in persons is a vital component of the U.S. strategy to promote human rights. In partnership with NGOs and government ministries and agencies, the U.S. Government supports government efforts to combat trafficking in persons.