(PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) — Cambodia’s parliament approved a bill which makes denying the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge a crime, BBC News reports.
The Khmer Rouge was a Maoist regime that ruled Cambodia from 1975-1979. Lead by Saloth Sar, better known as Pol Pot, the regime killed 1.7 million people, a third of the country’s population through overwork, starvation or torture.
Prime Minister Hun Sen proposed the law in response to an opposition leader who blamed Vietnam for some of the deaths, and claimed one of the most infamous torture prisons was staged. The opposition leader denies making these remarks.
Critics are saying that the law, which was passed when the opposition party was mostly absent, is a tool to keep the opposition down leading up to the elections.
“It’s a tool to try to intimidate the opposition but also to galvanize his side, to demonize the opposition as unfit to govern, and to show that he’s in charge, to show the country that he can completely dominate the opposition – and make them squirm,” Human Rights Watch’s Asia director Brad Adams told BBC News.
Those found guilty of denying the Khmer Rouge’s crimes could face up to two years in prison.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Michael Pearson and Steve Almasy, CNN
Faith Karimi and Chuck Johnston, CNN