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Criticisms mount at UN session

States, United Nations officials and civil society representatives continued to heap criticism on Cambodia’s approach to civil and political rights at the UN Human Rights Council yesterday.

The UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore yesterday said that despite “rapid economic growth” over the last year, “that same period was marked by continued political tensions and a further narrowing of civic space, under force of measures targeting the opposition and human rights defenders”.

Referring to the widely condemned arrest of opposition leader Kem Sokha on “treason” charges and the closure of the independent newspaper the Cambodia Daily, she said that “other developments regrettably have confirmed that civic space is indeed contracting”.

“We urge the government to fully uphold civil and political rights for the people of Cambodia, including their rights to freedom of opinion and expression and of association,” which she said would “help pave the way for credible and legitimate elections scheduled for 2018”.

Cambodian Ambassador to the UN Ney Samol yesterday again stressed the country’s economic development and said human rights were being used as a “tool to vilify my government, blatantly ignoring the principle ofnon-interference”.

But other countries echoed Gilmore’s assessment, including the US, France and Estonia. The Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution today expressing “serious concern over the recent deterioration of the civil and political environment in Cambodia”.

The resolution also includes the extension of the two-year mandate of the special rapporteur on human rights.

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