Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t labels shrinking freedom claims ‘fallacious’



Gov’t labels shrinking freedom claims ‘fallacious’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Ney Samol, the Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva. Facebook

Gov’t labels shrinking freedom claims ‘fallacious’

Ney Samol, the Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva, last week responded to the “fallacious allegation” that the application of the law in the Kingdom “has shrunk the space for freedom of expression”.

The criticism on Cambodia’s rights situation was expressed by the delegates of France, Australia, the UK and the EU during the general debate on the oral update by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights worldwide.

“It is ironic that the delegates requested Cambodia to strengthen democracy, human rights and the rule of law, but when [Cambodian] authorities enforced the law, they accuse us of restricting the right to freedom of expression."

“Even worse, they have taken human rights as a hostage when it comes to economic preferential treatment extended to Cambodia,” he said.

At the 41st Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council held last Monday, Rita French of the UK delegation said Kem Sokha “continues to be in detention without trial in Cambodia”.

“We urge Cambodia to maintain opening constructive dialogue with the EU on the Everything But Arms [EBA] trade procedure to prevent negative impacts on the most vulnerable,” she said.

Similarly, Francois Gave of the French delegation called upon Cambodia to reopen its political space and to pursue cooperation with the human rights mechanism, while Australia’s Sally Mansfield said she was concerned over the shrinking of civil society space in some countries, including the Kingdom.

Moreover, Walter Stevens of the EU delegation said the bloc had continuously called on Cambodia “to restore democracy by releasing opposition leader Sokha and reinstating political rights for all opposition members”.

Responding to the criticism, Samol said: “All citizens are equally treated before the law regardless of their political status or their past. A person is legally accountable not because of who he is but what offences he has committed.”

Samol further explained that individuals were duty bound to exercise their rights responsibly in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

He reiterated that “Cambodia contributed to numerous UN peacekeeping and humanitarian actions in many countries, namely the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, Cyprus and Lebanon”.

With regard to the EU’s preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement, Samol said Cambodia needed aid and assistance but the country’s sovereignty could not be compromised.

“Aid could not be taken as a hostage at the expense of sovereignty. If the heat is too hot to withstand, we will get out of the kitchen,” he concluded.

A week earlier, Samol responded to concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedoms of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and Rhona Smith, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia.

Kaye and Smith had previously said they were “concerned about the escalating trend of suppression by the Cambodian government of dissenting opinions in what appears to be an attempt to intimidate or silence political opinion”.

The pair said they were concerned over the use of criminal law to target free speech, including that which is online.

But Samol said it had often been observed that, in the eyes of the Special Rapporteurs, the Cambodian government was presumed guilty until proven innocent whenever it took action to enforce the law.

Even “a tiny action” from the government “operated as a shield and not a sword”, he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Would you like fries with that? US burger chain makes Phnom Penh debut

    California-based The Habit Burger Grill restaurant chain is all set to serve up a delicious array of charbroiled burgers and sides at its newest international location in the centre of Phnom Penh. The Habit is “renowned for its award-winning Charburgers grilled over an open flame,

  • Angkor provides ‘valuable’ water storage

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) has stored millions of cubic metres of water at reservoirs in the Angkor area after Cambodia experienced a series of rainstorms over the last few days. The storing of the water, besides serving temple conservation, will also be used to

  • Banteay Meanchey floods kill one more as death toll reaches 15

    As floodwaters start to recede in Pursat, Battambang and Pailin provinces and Phnom Penh, Banteay Meanchey continues to bear the brunt as one more person was killed on Monday, bringing the total number of flood-related deaths to 15 in the province this month. Banteay Meanchey provincial

  • Floods prompt evacuations in Kampong Speu

    Rain-induced floods and water flowing from Kampong Speu province have submerged the houses of 1,527 families living close to the Prek Thnot River in Spean Thma, Tien, Kong Noy and Roluos communes in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, according to data from local authorities. Spean Thma

  • Serving coffee with a side of robots

    The eye-catching glass building surrounded by greenery at the intersection of Streets 371 and 2002 in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district is more than just another coffee shop where you can while away a few hours. UrHobby House cafe is filled with robots and characters from

  • Banteay Meanchey flood victims receive aid

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday provided aid to more than 10,000 families affected by flooding in Banteay Meanchey province’s Mongkol Borei district and offered his condolences to the 18 victims who drowned in the province over the past week. He said flooding had occured in