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Cambodian representatives criticise UN panel on ‘devolution of democracy’

Kem Monovithya, former Cambodia National Rescue Party public affairs official and daughter of deputy party leader Kem Sokha, attends an opposition rally in 2013 in Phnom Penh. She is scheduled to speak on a United Nations panel on the “Devolution of Democracy in Cambodia” later today.
Kem Monovithya, former Cambodia National Rescue Party public affairs official and daughter of imprisoned former party leader Kem Sokha, attends an opposition rally in 2013 in Phnom Penh. She is scheduled to speak on a United Nations panel on the “Devolution of Democracy in Cambodia” later today. Photo supplied

Cambodian representatives criticise UN panel on ‘devolution of democracy’

The Permanent Mission of Cambodia to the United Nations preemptively lashed out at an upcoming panel organised by its US and EU counterparts on the “Devolution of Democracy in Cambodia”, calling the event “arrogant and disrespectful”.

The panelists who will speak are Kem Monovithya, former Cambodia National Rescue Party public affairs official and daughter of jailed opposition leader Kem Sokha; Cambodian Center for Independent Media head Pa Nguon Teang; and Human Rights Watch Asia Advocacy Director John Sifton. According to Kem, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights to Cambodia Rhona Smith is also expected to speak at the panel, which will be held today at 11:30am in New York City.

“The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia registers its strong protest against such panel discussion, which is politically motivated with the clear intent to mislead international public opinion,” the statement reads. “The Permanent Mission considers this arrogant and disrespectful behaviour as a serious interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of Cambodia, which runs counter to the principle of respect for sovereignty and non-interference as stipulated in Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations.”

The panel is set to discuss the “current situation in Cambodia”, which has seen the country’s only viable opposition party summarily dissolved on widely decried accusations that it was fomenting foreign-backed “revolution”. Noting next year's scheduled national elections, the event announcement highlights that “it is important to ensure that the fundamental rights of freedom of assembly, free association and of the press be upheld and that genuine competition in a multi-party democracy be seen as the necessity that it is”.

Cambodia’s permanent mission, for its part, insisted those rights have been respected, maintaining that any restrictions have been imposed according to the law. The arrest of Sokha, for example, was justified by his “treason”, the statement contends.

“[He] openly boasted in a recorded video addressed to a Cambodian community audience in Australia that he had been coached by a super power to overthrow the elected Cambodian Government by ways of inciting popular violence modeling after the example of the events in Yugoslavia and Serbia, unveiling his complete and total obedience to his super power,” the statement reads.

In the 2013 speech used to justify his arrest, Sokha had actually talked about receiving advice from the United States to develop a political strategy to challenge the ruling party, though he did not mention using violence in any form or operating outside the democratic process.

Updates to follow.

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