Cambodia in the midst of COVID-19 humanitarian crisis; Australia must support

A third wave of COVID-19 has contributed to a worsening human rights situation in Cambodia. The government is accused of barring humanitarian assistance to locked-down parts of Phnom Penh, silencing dissent, and violently cracking down on those believed to have broken lockdown restrictions.

Everyone under lockdown must be provided access to adequate food, water, health care, and other essential items as a matter of human rights. Lockdown restrictions must be coupled with increased social protection measures and humanitarian assistance to ensure Cambodia’s fulfilment of its human rights obligations regarding the right to food.

Furthermore, the use of unnecessary and excessive force by law enforcement officers cements the need for a radical re-thinking of COVID-19 suppression techniques in Cambodia.

Amnesty International Australia has written to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne to urge the Cambodian government to take a human rights-based approach to the COVID-19 situation by immediately tackling hunger in Cambodian cities, and eliminating the use of force to punish violations of lockdown restrictions.

Universal and fair access to COVID-19 vaccines is the only way out of the pandemic. Amnesty International remains deeply concerned and disappointed that Australia is one of the few countries that are continuing to block the TRIPS waiver proposal that would allow more countries to manufacture and distribute COVID-19 vaccines and health products. Implementation of the proposal would ease the COVID-19 crisis in countries such as Cambodia.

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Joel MacKay is a campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.