Cambodia placed 15th out of 15 countries surveyed in the East Asia and Pacific region for adherence to rule of law, according to a report released on Wednesday by the World Justice Project, which also ranked the autocratic Southeast Asian state near the very bottom of its list of countries examined worldwide.
Examining constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, and the integrity of courts, among other factors, the WJP Rule of Law Index measures the rule-of-law performance of 128 countries around the world, the WJP said in its report.
“At 127th place out of 128 countries and jurisdictions worldwide, Cambodia remained in the same position [this year] for global rank,” WJP said, adding, “Cambodia’s score places it at 15 out of 15 countries in the East Asia and Pacific region.”
“Regionally, East Asia and Pacific’s top performer in the Index is New Zealand (7th out of 128 countries globally), followed by Australia and Singapore,” said WJP, which has offices in Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Singapore.
“The three countries with the lowest scores in the region were the Philippines, Myanmar, and Cambodia,” WJP said.
Speaking to RFA’s Cambodian Service, Chhin Malin—a spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Justice—called the WJP’s ranking of his country “merely based on its political view, which does not reflect the real practice of the rule of law here.”
“Also, the WJP shows favoritism toward [Cambodia’s] political opposition and human rights activists by ignoring all the correct things that Cambodia has done. And it treats as abuses of the rule of law all the legal actions that Cambodian authorities take against those people who violate local laws themselves,” he said.
Rights groups in Cambodia and around the world have widely condemned the use by Cambodia’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party of the country’s courts to jail and harass journalists and members of political opposition groups, and have accused top government figures and their family members of profiting from illegal logging and the seizure of land for commercial development.