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.


  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors

  • Vietnam told to remove border tents

    Kandal provincial governor Kong Sophoan has ordered local authorities to prohibit the construction of buildings in areas bordering Cambodia and to report any irregularities immediately. Recently, Vietnamese officials removed another seven tents from the border area with Cambodia. His remarks were made on Wednesday afternoon

  • Migrant workers set to return from Malaysia

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation confirmed on Thursday that 158 Cambodian students and migrant workers will fly home from Malaysia on Friday morning. This is the second flight to bring Cambodians home from Malaysia. A ministry notice said Malaysia Airlines Flight MH754 will