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

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Preah Sihanouk hit with travel ban

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has announced a temporary travel ban to and from the province, except for ambulances and trucks transporting goods. The announcement came after prime minister Hun Sen called on people in the province to travel only if necessary, and that people not

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • Cambodia's cluster cases jump to 259

    The Ministry of Health on February 27 recorded 26 more cases of Covid-19 linked to the February 20 community transmission, bringing the total to 259 in one week. The 26 include three Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. The ministry noted that five of the Chinese