Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t rebuffs rapporteurs’ concerns on Rong Chhun case

Gov’t rebuffs rapporteurs’ concerns on Rong Chhun case

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Crowds protest to demand Rong Chhun’s release. Chhun has been sentenced to two years in prison. Hean Rangsey

Gov’t rebuffs rapporteurs’ concerns on Rong Chhun case

Cambodia's Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva has dismissed concerns voiced by UN human rights experts on the convictions of prominent activist Rong Chhun and two of his supporters last week.

The contentious exchange came after the Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced Chhun to two years in prison and fined him two million riel ($500) on August 18.

The court also sentenced Chhun’s supporters Sar Kanika and Ton Nimol to 20 months in prison and fined them the same amount.

The three were charged with inciting serious social unrest and a compensation payment of 400 million riel ($100,000) was demanded by the Cambodian Border Affairs Committee, which was a civil party to their cases.

Chhun is president of the Cambodian Watchdog Council and a former member of the National Election Committee, nominated to the post by the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party in 2013.

In a statement on August 24, UN human rights experts strongly criticised the Cambodian authorities for convicting Chhun over comments made on Facebook about the alleged loss of land and forced evictions along the Cambodia-Vietnam border.

They were equally critical of the government’s conviction of Kanika and Nimol for participating in a demonstration a year ago that called for Chhun’s release from pre-trial detention.

The UN experts include special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia Vitit Muntarbhorn; special rapporteur on human rights defenders Mary Lawlor; special rapporteur on adequate housing Balakrishnan Rajagopal; and special rapporteur on the rights of peaceful assembly and association Clement Voule.

“The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia in Geneva deplores the personal views of a handful of special rapporteurs who are unable to see the bigger picture, which is the importance of maintaining the rule of law – with equal application and equal treatment under the law – of all citizens in the Kingdom,” it said in a press statement on August 24.

The UN rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, Muntarbhorn, was forceful in his remarks, stating that the imprisonment and severe punishment of the three activists was unreasonable and disproportionate.

“I am extremely alarmed that the court convicted three human rights defenders for acts that are protected by their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. These rights are guaranteed by Cambodian and international law,” he said.

In response, the Permanent Mission said: “The special rapporteurs never bother to make mention of the principle that the exercise of one’s rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association carry with them special duties, responsibilities and limitations, as stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” it said.

Chhun was arrested on July 31 last year, 10 days after he posted a statement to Facebook regarding border demarcation and alleged forced evictions in Trapeang Phlong commune of Tbuong Khmum province’s Ponhea Kraek district.


  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement