Government spokesman Phay Siphan lashed out at a host of Western individuals and organisations in a Facebook post on Tuesday evening, accusing them of violating the sovereignty of Cambodia and attempting to use the Kingdom as a battleground with China.
The post was responding to recent criticisms of the political climate by Rhona Smith, the UN special rapporteur on human rights, and also targets two rights advocates over quotes in the media. Siphan accused Smith of being part of a “subversive movement”, and said her comments “distort information”. “It was surprising that a partner, instead of doing her part to help Cambodia, she accused Cambodia,” he added by phone yesterday.
Siphan also said the West was manufacturing the narrative of a Cambodian shift towards China in an attempt to use the Kingdom as a geopolitical battleground reminiscent of the Cold War.
“They should learn from the past. We don’t respect them and we don’t need them,” he said.
Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson and Adhoc adviser Nicolas Agostini – formerly a UN representative – were also singled out by the spokesman for contributing to the China narrative through their comments. In an email yesterday, Robertson dismissed Siphan as being “wrong, as usual”.
“What I pointed out is some Cambodian government officials are now actively using the excuse of Chinese support to push back against criticism,” he said, adding that Siphan and others use sovereignty as an “excuse” to shirk rights obligations.