Despite the government indicating it was open to parliamentary reform, the dismissal of opposition lawmakers in June was a disturbing shift away from a commitment to protecting human rights, UN human rights envoy Surya Subedi says in his latest report on Cambodia.
Obtained on Friday, the paper revisits recommendations Subedi made after previous visits to the Kingdom and concludes that, despite its constitution, Cambodia is still “akin to a limited democracy”.
Subedi states in the report, written before the election, that he received positive responses from National Assembly and Senate representatives regarding his recommendations, which he says were needed to “accelerate the process of democratisation in the country in relation to the Parliament”.
But the June dismissal of opposition Sam Rainsy Party and Human Rights Party lawmakers – by a Cambodian People’s Party-dominated assembly committee – for joining the merged Cambodia National Rescue Party was a step backwards, he states.
“By this act,” Subedi wrote, “those members of Parliament were denied not only the ability to carry their messages through Parliament, but also their salaries and parliamentary immunity from prosecution, which has created an unhealthy and undemocratic environment”.
One of Subedi’s recommendations is that the procedure for removing parliamentary immunity and other disciplinary actions against sitting members of Parliament be brought in line with the “principles of natural justice, constitutional standards and freedom of expression”.
“In regard to nearly all of [the recommendations], however, [Subedi], regrets that recent developments demonstrate not an advancement towards better protection of human rights but, on the contrary, a disturbing reversal,” he wrote.
Ruling party lawmaker Chheang Vun said yesterday he had nothing to say about Subedi’s report or what happened in Parliament in June.
Any reform plans would occur only after the National Assembly reopened in late September, he added.
“We will be sorry if the CNRP does not attend the National Assembly,” he said.
In the report, Subedi also revisits recommendations he made regarding the judiciary, elections and land concessions.
“Overall, Cambodia seems to be moving along on the road to democracy,” the report says, noting such “major steps” as the release of Beehive Radio director Mam Sonando from prison and the granting of a royal pardon to opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY VONG SOKHENG