The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia in Geneva has issued a press statement underlining that the country’s human rights efforts and progress were recognised at the UN Debate in Geneva.

The full statement dated Oct. 8 reads as follows:

“Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, held on 06 October 2021 in Geneva, was concluded with 31 states participating in the debate.

22 delegations spoke in favor of Cambodia’s efforts, progress and achievements in promoting and protecting human rights. Many congratulated the very high rate of Cambodian population vaccinated, social protection schemes for the vulnerable groups and re-opening of in-person classes, including intensive inoculation of teachers and adolescents. Significant gains in human development, GDP growth, higher literacy, lower maternal and infant mortality rates were also mentioned. Others recognised initiatives to promote legal and judicial reform and to advance government-CSO partnership, including efforts to amend the LANGO and to create National Human Rights Institution.

Some of the above-said speakers also stressed that the working methods of the Special Rapporteur should be objective, balanced, non-politicized and non-selective, taking into account the perspectives of the government, national circumstances and the importance of reliable, verifiable sources. This country mandate should identify gaps and provide guidance through technical cooperation and capacity building seeking to address the underlying causes rather than the symptoms.

The other nine countries taking part in the debate voiced critical comments on civic and political space, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Notwithstanding their grievances, most of them welcomed Cambodia’s ongoing engagement with the Special Rapporteur and the OHCHR, thus indicating the Kingdom’s commitment to engaging in human rights issues. Some recognized Cambodia’s successful vaccination program against the Covid-19, nascent economic growth, financial support programs for the people affected by the Covid-19, economic rights and educational rights. Others look forward to working with Cambodia to assume Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2022.

During the interactive dialogue, Ambassador and Permanent Representative (PR) of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva highlighted a series of virtual high-level interactions of Cambodia with the Country Special Rapporteur (SR), notably his recent online dialogue with Samdech Techo Prime Minister.

The PR also questioned the SR’s principled, fair and objective assessment of the country in light of his sheer silence as to the surge of hate speech, slander, disinformation and incitement disguised under the freedom of expression, which could potentially polarize the people and is attacking the essence of human rights norms. The PR stated, ‘Sadly, the SR and human rights advocates are utterly silent on this worrying trend, including dangerous populist rhetoric of a former extreme opposition leader, who was condemned by the SR’s predecessor in this Council in 2019 and repeatedly by his former colleagues for the defamatory language, racial incitement and provocation to sedition.’

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the PR emphasised, ‘Cambodia has never invoked the state of emergency, but opted for a more flexible legislation with a set of health, administrative and legal actions. The Covid-19 Prevention Law, aiming to save the people’s life, adheres to the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. We also invite the SR to further verify the number of the arrests, charges and related status of each case.’

In challenging the alleged shrinking civic space, the PR refuted, ‘If LANGO were restrictive, why does the number of newly registered NGOs keep rising, making the total number at nearly 6,000? The fact is that the grievances simply come from a handful of the heavily politicised and foreign-funded NGOs, demanding transparency, but refusing to prove themselves transparent. To address their concerns, the Government’s Working Group (WG) to amend the LANGO has reviewed 11 out of 14 articles proposed by the CSOs for revision. The WG envisaged to conclude this exercise by the end of this year. The CSOs also benefit from the bi-annual consultative forum with the government.’

On political space, the PR underlined, ‘26 former opposition politicians had their political rights reinstated with many having formed additional six political parties to challenge the ruling party in the coming elections. This open space was instead blocked by the leadership of the opposition camp, branding those doing so as traitors or puppets, to which the SR and Western colleagues turn their blind eyes.’

Finally, the PR further rebutted, ‘Some Western/EU countries, taking the floor today, construed the application of laws in Cambodia, which aim to shield the law-abiding citizens, as clampdown of freedoms. Paradoxically, the same measures, when employed in their own countries, are considered necessary and lawful to maintain public order, social stability and national security. Instances are adoption of global security law, suppression of yellow-vest protesters, arrest of women for social media incitement against lockdown, and ban of social media accounts due to risk of incitement of violence, just to name a few. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres emphasised in this Council that human rights must never be a vehicle for double standards or a means to pursue hidden agendas.’”

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press

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