The Cambodian ambassador to the UN has told the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that all Cambodian citizens are free to exercise their political rights and their rights to freedom of expression.
Ney Sam Ol was responding to a UN annual report titled Role and achievements of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights.
The report by the UN office in Cambodia claimed the government’s actions were affecting people’s rights.
During a debate regarding Agenda Item 10 at the 42nd session of the UNHRC in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 26, Sam Ol said political rights can be exercised by every citizen and all political parties under Cambodia’s laws.
“Citizens also exercise their rights of expression and have the right to receive news from all sources and types.
“They enjoy the freedom of expression in every aspect, as there are 550 print and 148 online newspapers, 211 radio stations, 21 TV networks, 113 cable TV channels and 39 press associations in Cambodia.
“On top of that, there are 5,400 registered NGOs, including those involved in promoting human rights and democracy. The government has always regarded NGOs as partners,” he said.
He said the government had also announced the cancellation of the three-day advance notice previously required of civil society organisations before conducting public forums. It had also set up a biannual dialogue between the government and NGOs.
The report said actions taken by the government had affected Cambodians’ freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly.
It noted that the 2018 national elections took place without the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) “which had received about 44 per cent of the popular vote in the 2013 national elections and again in the 2017 commune elections”.
The report said although the official turnout was 83.02 per cent “people were reportedly intimidated or paid to vote, and civil society organisations faced harassment in the run-up to the election. Seventeen popular websites were blocked around election day”.
The report also said the arrest of CNRP president Kem Sokha was “arbitrary”. “The dissolution of the [CNRP] and the banning of 118 of its senior members from political activity for five years seriously called into question the genuineness of the elections,” it added.
However, Sam Ol insisted that incitement, acts of treason and calling for a coup to topple a legitimately elected government were not political rights, nor the valid use of freedom of expression in a democratic society.
“Democracy should not be extorted or hijacked by any individual or group for their ill-intentioned political goals,” he said.
Cambodia Human Rights Committee spokesman Chin Malin had told The Post on Monday that the authorities would implement some, but not all of the recommendations put forth in Geneva on September 25 by special rapporteur Rhona Smith.