Cambodia has ratified six out of the nine international human rights treaties, one of the best ratification records in South-east Asia. However, this record does not reflect the situation of human rights defenders (HRDs) on the ground. In recent years, Cambodian government has increased its policy of repression of HRDs. The authorities use legislation and the judicial system, and the threats of arrest or legal action, to restrict free speech, jail government critics, disperse workers, trade union representatives and farmers engaging in peaceful assemblies.
HRDs who work to promote and protect economic, social, and cultural rights are particularly targeted by the authorities. Trade union leaders have been subjected to arrest, physical violence, and judicial harassment. Community activists defending the right to housing and protesting against land grabs and forced evictions have faced fabricated charges and jail terms. Most of them are charged with offences such as damage to private property, incitement, robbery, assault and drug smuggling.