Cambodia Ranks Poorly in Rule of Law Index

Cambodia received one of the lowest scores in the World Justice Project’s (WJP) Rule of Law Index 2015, released Tuesday, ranking 99 out of 102 countries surveyed.

Only Afghanistan and Venezuela ranked lower than Cambodia in the WJP report—which measures how members of the public experience the rule of law—while Zimbabwe received an equal score of 0.37 but was ranked 100.

By comparison, at the top of the index, Denmark and Norway received scores of 0.87.

In every category—including order and security, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, regulatory enforcement and criminal justice—Cambodia was ranked in the bottom third of countries.

It also came in below all other surveyed countries in the region, including Vietnam, Thailand and Burma, on nearly all indicators.

Human rights activist Ou Virak, founder of the Future Forum think tank, contributed to the report, but said he did not expect Cambodia to rank so low.

“Cambodia, in terms of rule of law, should rank pretty low, but actually I’m quite surprised that it came out as low as it did,” Mr. Virak said.

“I’m not surprised that it’s in the lowest tier, because I think in general there is a lack of rule of law in the country,” he added, pointing to the unpredictability of day-to-day government decision-making, corruption and a broken judicial system as some of the biggest problems.

The WJP annually surveys 1,000 members of the public in each country, and interviews local legal experts in an effort to measure the rule of law, making it “the most comprehensive index of its kind and the only to rely solely on primary data,” according to a statement.

In Cambodia, only 28 percent of those surveyed said they “agree” or “strongly agree” that police act according to the law, while 30 percent said police respected the basic rights of suspects and just 22 percent said police were punished for violating the law.

While about half of respondents said members of the public, civil society and political parties could express opinions critical of government policies and actions without fear of retaliation, only 26 percent said that the same went for the media.

Cambodia regularly scrapes the bottom of similar indexes. The country ranked 156 out of 175 nations surveyed in Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, while earlier this year U.S.-based NGO Freedom House assessed Cambodia as being “squarely within the ‘not free’ category” when it came to press freedom.

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