The Cambodian authorities use legislation and the judicial system, and threats of arrest or legal action, to restrict free speech, jail government critics, and disperse workers, trade union representatives and farmers engaging in peaceful assembly. The authorities routinely forcibly and often violently disperse public protests. In August 2015, King Norodom Sihamoni signed in effect the Law on Associations and Non-governmental Organisations (LANGO), under which severely hampers local rights groups ability to operate and permits the government to arbitrarily terminates partnerships with international organizations.
HRDs who work to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights are particularly at risk of persecution. Trade union leaders, especially those affiliated with the Free Trade Union of the Workers of Cambodia, have been subjected to extra-judicial executions. Community activists defending the right to housing and protesting against land grabs and forced evictions have faced fabricated charges and jail terms.
Journalists who criticise the government face serious charges, lengthy trials, imprisonment and violence. At least nine journalists have been killed since 1992. Under the penal code, government critics who peacefully express views about individuals and government institutions risk criminal prosecution for defamation and spreading false information. The government threatened to expel senior UN officials further to their call for more public debate on the anti-corruption law, which does not provide adequate protection for whistle-blowers and failed to ensure independence for statutory anti-corruption agencies.