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CHRC rejects report to UN on ‘human rights crisis’

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Rhona Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia. Heng Chivoan

CHRC rejects report to UN on ‘human rights crisis’

Cambodina Human Rights Committee (CHRC) spokesman Chin Malin on Wednesday rejected a report by a group of NGOs to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) that the Kingdom is facing an “ongoing human rights crisis”.

Malin said he also expected that the possible adoption of a resolution by the UNHRC would balance the positive progress of Cambodia’s human rights situation with any concerns.

He was responding to a report submitted by 28 local and international human rights organisations to the UNHRC last week that urged the body to adopt a resolution requesting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in Cambodia”.

The NGOs said they had written to the UNHRC “to alert [it] to an ongoing human rights crisis in Cambodia”.

The report said a wide range of concerns regarding the human rights situation in the Kingdom are raised, including the case of Kem Sokha, the president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) , the dissolution of the CNRP and the associated banning of its members from politics, freedom of the media, the summons issued to former CNRP members by the police and the courts, and the arrest of activists.

Concerns regarding legal enforcement affecting the freedoms of assembly and trade unions were also highlighted in the report.

It said that since the last UNHRC resolution was adopted in September 2017, the human rights situation in Cambodia had “drastically worsened”.

“The Cambodian government’s actions before and since the July 2018 [national] elections demonstrate a comprehensive campaign by the government of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) to use violence, intimidation and courts that lack judicial independence to silence or eliminate the political opposition, independent media and civil society groups critical of the government,” the report said.

The NGOs requested member states to explicitly condemn the Cambodian government’s attacks on human rights norms and take steps to address them.

“For these reasons, we call on the Human Rights Council to adopt a resolution requesting the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in Cambodia and outline actions the government should take to comply with its international human rights obligations,” the report said.

However, Malin denied Cambodia had a human rights crisis as claimed by the NGOs.

He said the government only enforced the law, as was common practice in a democratic country.

“The NGOs have said what they have because they are not happy with the legal enforcement regarding the groups they support,” he said.

He said the NGOs had called for a resolution to be adopted because the UNHRC would possibly adopt one as requested by some member states, at the time when Rhona Smith, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, submitted the report ending her mandate.

“If the resolution is adopted, we think some parts of it would address the concerns as raised by NGOs.

“But we believe that other parts of it would be about the current positive progress Cambodia has made,” he said, adding that the Kingdom has worked in cooperation with UN procedure, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and dialogue partners in the field of human rights.

Marie-Dominique Parent, OHCHR-Cambodia deputy representative and officer in charge, on Wednesday, said Smith had been appointed in March 2015, with her tenure extended in 2017.

Whether she would be reappointed was up for review at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council beginning next week, she said.

Meanwhile, Smith on Monday submitted to the UNHRC an addendum to a report on the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals in Cambodian development policy.

The addendum identified groups that may be at risk of being left behind by Cambodia’s current rapid development.

Smith said these included indigenous people, children from certain groups, the disabled, the elderly, members of the LGBT community and women.

“The Special Rapporteur encourages the government, and in particular sub-national authorities in charge of delivering social and other public services, to pay attention to the rights of indigenous peoples as a foremost consideration.

“The Special Rapporteur remains concerned about the situation of children from indigenous and ethnic minority groups, including children of Vietnamese descent, who still suffer disadvantages, including in relation to the availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability of education,” the report said.

Smith made nine recommendations, including bringing in a general non-discrimination and equality law, as well as reviewing and revising the school curriculum to make education more inclusive, among others.

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