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ICC NOTE: Freedom House, a non-profit non-partisan organization, unveils an index for each countries record of freedom ranging from political freedom to religious freedom. The 2016 edition has unveiled little has improved in Southeast Asia and it if anything were substantial it would be many nations digressed.  Communist nations crackdown further on activists and religious minorities, while authoritarian dictatorships remain in power such as Cambodia’s 30+ year leader. The 2016 Freedom House Index can be accessed by this link here.

1/28/2016 Southeast Asia (Radio Free Asia) – Several countries in Southeast Asia have backpedaled on the democratic process and enacted restrictive measures to keep government detractors at bay, while Asia’s communist regimes deepened repression of bloggers and activists, according to reports issued by two prominent human rights organizations.

Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for three decades, and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) have not undertaken measures to improve the nation’s human rights situation or address corruption, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its annual review of human rights practices in more than 90 countries.

The “culture of dialogue” forged between the prime minister and Sam Rainsy, leader of the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), fell apart last year with the convictions of 11 CNRP organizers in July on trumped-up insurrection charges, brutal attacks on two party lawmakers by CPP supporters in October, and the issuance in November of a politically motivated arrest warrant for Sam Rainsy based on a conviction in a defamation case.

“Hun Sen ignored his commitment to a ‘culture of dialogue’ with the opposition and reverted to a culture of violence and intimidation in 2015,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement issued Wednesday. “He used his control of Cambodia’s security forces, courts and civil service to force the opposition leader into exile, beat up opposition politicians, jail critics, pass draconian laws and increase the ruling party’s stranglehold on the country’s institutions.”

HRW also cited Myanmar in its report for President Thein Sein’s continued incarceration of political prisoners, despite promises to free them as part of a gradual political liberalization of the country.

Although he ordered the release of 52 political prisoners, including land rights activists from five detention facilities last Friday, about 100 others remain behind bars, including students arrested last March during a peaceful demonstration against a controversial education law, HRW’s World Report 2016 said. The protest had turned violent when police attacked the students in the central Myanmar town of Letpadan.

“[The] limited release of prisoners should be followed by freeing all remaining prisoners and a commitment to drop all ongoing politically motivated charges against peaceful activists and critics,” Adams said.

Thein Sein, who will leave office by March could “leave a lasting legacy by fulfilling his stated commitment to release all political prisoners,” he said. “Otherwise, he will be seen as little more than a transitional figure who was not committed to a real change in Burma’s political culture.”

Washington, D.C.-based Freedom House, which gave Myanmar an upward trend arrow in its Freedom in the World 2016 report, lists the country as one of 10 nations to keep an eye on this year to see whether the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party, which swept general elections last November, makes good on its promises of continued democratic reform.

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