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Journalists and activists agitating for rights targeted

Two newspapers critical of the Cambodian ruling party were shut down permanently, while five men were convicted of "provocation" for distributing pamphlets critical of the state last week, reports the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights (CCHR). In another part of the country, an outspoken land rights activist was shot at last month.

Newspapers "The Water and Fire News" and "The World News" are owned by the same publisher and were ordered to stop publishing as of 3 August. The papers had their licenses revoked as a result of a perceived insult to the Ministry of Information.

The director of both newspapers, Keo Amnot Sangkhem, said he had voluntarily stopped publishing "The Water and Fire News" for a period three years ago after receiving a threat from a government official - following publication of an article about the death of National Police Commissioner Hok Lundy. Sangkhem has written a letter of complaint to the Information Ministry about the recent shut down.

Cambodian courts are also going after those who take issue with the ruling Cambodian People's Party. On 4 August, five men, ages 21 to 27, were convicted on charges of provocation to commit crimes for distributing leaflets critical of the government, between 2008 and 2011. Two men received two-year prison sentences, while the other three were each sentenced to 18 months. They were all also each fined US$487. One of the five denies giving out pamphlets.

The pamphlets talked about the Cambodian government's ties to the Vietnamese government, accusing Prime Minister Hun Sen of selling land to foreign countries and referring to him as a "traitor" and a "puppet of Vietnam."

In August 2010, the courts convicted four men - including a member of the reputable NGO the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) - for handing out pamphlets in Takeo province. They were also critical of the ruling party's relationship with Vietnam. (The men denied giving out leaflets.)

In another incident, in December 2010, United Nations World Food Programme employee Seng Kunnaka was convicted for sharing articles with co-workers, which were taken from a popular anti-government website.

Political critiques have not been tolerated in other areas of the country as well. In Siem Riep province, a land rights activist who has advocated for the rights of villagers in his community was shot at in his house on 26 July. The activist and his family were unharmed and have since fled their home.

At a recent public forum held by CCHR, attended by local officials, the activist had spoken out about a government reforestation scheme which had adversely affected 105 families in Tbeng commune in 2007.

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