BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Cambodian parliament last week unanimously passed a controversial law that would punish those who deny crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge with up to two years in prison and $1,000 in fines, reported the Phnom Penh Post.
There was no debate on the law, which was drafted a week before it was passed and also allows for prosecution of people for glorifying, opposing, downplaying or refusing to recognise the crimes that occurred under the Khmer Rouge, said the report.
Legal entities - including companies and political parties - can be punished if their representatives are found guilty, the newspaper added.
Almost a quarter of Cambodia’s population - some 1.7 million people - died from torture, starvation and overwork under the radical communist Khmer Rouge regime, which seized power in 1975.
Rights groups and opposition lawmakers say the law is politically motivated and a tool to restrict free speech.
Prime Minister Hun Sen had proposed the law following an audio recording emerged of an opposition lawmaker seemingly denying the atrocities in a notorious Khmer Rouge-run torture prison. Kem Sokha, deputy head of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), said his words were edited and taken out of context.
The report said that no opposition members were present during the debate because two days earlier, all 27 had been stripped of their elected posts by the National Assembly’s permanent committee, which is controlled by Hun Sen’s Cambodian People's Party.