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UN concerns plentiful in Geneva postmortem

A UN rights panel that grilled government delegates in Geneva last month yesterday handed down its concluding observations on how Cambodia has implemented the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it acceded to more than two decades ago.

The only positive aspects outlined by the UN Human Rights Committee related to the passage of rights-related laws – such as those dealing with the prevention of domestic violence, suppression of human trafficking and promotion of the rights of the disabled – as well as Cambodia’s accession to international conventions.

But the committee outlined more than 20 areas of concern, ranging from judicial independence and impunity to freedom of expression and excessive use of force by authorities, painting a damning overview of the Kingdom’s overall implementation of the convention.

While the panel welcomed Cambodia’s second periodic report to the committee, which was examined during a series of testy hearings on March 17 and 18, it pointed out that it was 10 years late in being submitted.

The committee noted that two election-related laws that were recently passed were negotiated by the ruling CPP and opposition CNRP “without genuine consultations”, which it implied was a common theme in Cambodian law-making, citing three judicial laws passed last year after “a similar process”.

It called on the government to consider making all draft legislation public. The committee also said it “remained concerned at reports of discriminatory and violent acts perpetrated against ethnic Vietnamese”, and said more should be done to combat such attacks.

On this point, it suggested developing a national action plan against racial discrimination.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday defended the government’s drafting of laws without public consultation, asserting that the NGOs that often complain about not being consulted “are not experts in law” and are funded by interest groups.

Regarding discrimination against ethnic Vietnamese, Siphan blamed the opposition party for “raising ethnic confrontation for their own political interests”, a claim the party has rejected on numerous occasions. The spokesman added that while the government appreciates recommendations from the UN, it wished rights advocates would have more understanding of Cambodian history and culture.

“Our culture never had pluralism before. Those people from the West, they have the culture. Listen to Cambodia; imposing doesn’t help.”

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