The Cambodian Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva said a total of 22 foreign delegations spoke in favour of the Kingdom’s efforts, progress and achievements in promoting and protecting human rights, while nine others voiced critical comments on civic and political space in the country.

According to the Mission's press statement on October 8, the recognition was given during an interactive dialogue between Vitit Muntarbhorn – the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia – and the delegations of 31 member states in Geneva, Switzerland, on October 6.

The statement said most of the 22 delegations congratulated Cambodia's high rate of Covid-19 vaccinations for the population, social protection schemes for the poor and vulnerable, and school reopening following a jab drive that prioritised teachers and adolescents.

“Significant gains in human development, GDP [gross domestic product] growth, higher literacy, lower maternal and infant mortality rates were also mentioned.

"Other [member states] recognised initiatives to promote legal and judicial reform and to advance government-CSO [civil society organisation] partnership, including efforts to amend the LANGO and to create a National Human Rights Institution,” it said, referring to the Law on Associations and Non-governmental Organisations.

The Mission said only nine delegations voiced critical comments on civic and political space in Cambodia, including freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

“Notwithstanding their grievances, most of them welcomed Cambodia’s ongoing engagement with the Special Rapporteur and the OHCHR, thus indicating the Kingdom’s commitment to engaging in human rights issues,” it said, referring to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It noted that even those who criticised Cambodia's political and human rights situation recognised the country's rapid vaccination drive, economic growth and financial support programmes for those affected by Covid-19, among others.

The Mission rebuffed the allegation of shrinking political and civic space, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, saying there are currently nearly 6,000 CSOs in Cambodia.

The government, it said, has even made the efforts to amend the LANGO as suggested by some CSOs.

The government, it added, has also paved the way for former opposition party members who had been banned from politics for five years to receive political rehabilitation, with 26 of them having returned to the political arena.