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Rainsy eyes seat at UN rights review meeting

Opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, speaks at a press conference at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh
Opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, speaks at a press conference at CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh this week. Vireak Mai

Rainsy eyes seat at UN rights review meeting

Opposition leader Sam Rainsy left for Europe yesterday evening to attend a UN Human Rights Council review on Cambodia in Geneva and to lobby European Union officials to take a stronger stance against the government, he said before departure.

Rainsy plans on attending the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process for Cambodia at the UN on January 28 – a state-led initiative that will see government officials presenting what they have done to improve human rights in Cambodia in an interactive session with other UN member states.

But Mak Sambath, the head of the Cambodian delegation and deputy chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, mocked Rainsy’s plans yesterday, saying that he would have to sit outside the meeting room.

“As a principle, in the Human Rights Council of the United Nations, there are 193 countries that will join the meeting.… In the past, other countries have had opposition parties going [there too, but] they have stayed outside, because this is a process [involving] states, ” he said.

According to the United Nations website, only member states and NGOs can attend the UPR working group sessions.

But Cambodia National Rescue Party spokesman Yem Ponharith claimed yesterday that Rainsy had been “invited” to report on the real human rights situation in the Kingdom.

Cambodia’s last review was in December 2009.

Rainsy will also visit the European Parliament in Brussels during his trip abroad.

“[I will go] to follow up on the implementation of the resolution adopted last week, and I will meet with officials from national governments in the EU,” he said.

The EU passed a parliamentary resolution on January 16 that called for an investigation into the July election and the killing of striking workers earlier this month.

It also called for the release of 23 people detained in a brutal crackdown on protests and for incitement charges against Rainsy, his deputy Kem Sokha and union leader Rong Chhun to be dropped.

The EU’s executive arm – the European Commission – will decide whether the resolution is acted upon. Rainsy plans on lobbying commission officials while abroad, he said.

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