The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG) said it had learned “with great dismay” the statement by Rhona Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.

Smith released a statement on Friday expressing “grave concerns about the heightened political crackdown” in Cambodia and called on the government to respect people’s rights and the freedom of opinion, expression and assembly.

She claimed there were more than 200 cases of harassment and judicial action against members or supporters of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) since the beginning of the year.

She also expressed concerns over troop deployments at the Thai border at the time when CNRP “acting president” Sam Rainsy is purportedly attempting to return to Cambodia.

However, in its response to Smith’s statement, the Permanent Mission stressed that Cambodia only acted against those who breached its laws.

The government's actions, it said, could not be deemed a “political crackdown” as they were no different from those taken by any other democracy.

It said Smith should have voiced support for Cambodia upholding the rule of law rather than slandering its law enforcement operations.

Human rights, including freedom of opinion, expression and assembly, it said, were not absolute, but contingent.

“Therefore, political discourse and commenting on public affairs with insults, instigated violence, racial discrimination and a call for rebellion against a democratically elected government do not equate to freedom of expression.

“The law-breakers are duly charged and prosecuted, not on the basis of who they are, but on the offences they had committed and with concrete evidence,” the Permanent Mission stressed.

It said the mandate of the Special Rapporteur should be to assist Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights through dialogue and cooperation, and “not to make any public statement which could mislead public opinion and be viewed as an act of interfering into the domestic jurisdiction of a sovereign state”.