Cambodian rights revisited

HUMAN rights continue to gain a higher priority on the agenda of global concerns. Any country not watching its rights behavior these days is likely to find itself increasingly isolated. In the United States, for example, rights abuse abroad now figures prominently in deciding who receives economic aid. Amnesty International recently issued a report on Cambodia that merits special attention.

The Cambodia that Amnesty describes is no longer the scene of large-scale murder outside the law, the practice depicted so vividly in the movie ``The Killing Fields.''

Nonetheless, abuse of other kinds - widespread torture and political detention under often inhuman conditions - persists under the communist People's Republic of Kampuchea and its Vietnamese supporters who took over in 1979. Anyone now politically detained in Cambodia, often for the most arbitrary of reasons, is likely to be tortured. Trials of such prisoners are rare; Amnesty knows of only seven since 1979.

Hanoi radio insists the only violators of rights are the Pol Pot forces of the Khmer Rouge, who were ousted from power in 1979. Cambodia says Amnesty exaggerates, that it has very few political prisoners. Such excuses may not be surprising, but they will not do.

Many countries are pressing for a trial before the World Court of Khmer Rouge officials for past offenses. The global community must press Cambodia and other current violators of human rights to face up to their responsibilities and halt such abuses.

Cambodia has good laws on paper, including one outlawing the use of torture. It should abide by them.

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