Cambodian ambassador to the UN Office and other International Organisations An Sokkhoeurn has defended the Kingdom’s human rights records and practises against statements raised during the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The response came following opening remarks from High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressing her concern about the situation in Cambodia, after having received reports of acts of intimidation against civil society and human rights organisations in the Kingdom.
She said it seemed apparent that critics and people who are politically opposed to the government are the targets of repressive measures, including arbitrary detention in a brazen misuse of criminal laws.
“While the authorities’ cooperation with the Office on technical and capacity building activities is welcome, I call on the Government to respect its commitment to uphold the human rights of all its people – including freedom of the media, the impartial rule of law, and the right to freely participate in public affairs without fear of persecution,” Bachelet said.
But Sokkhoeurn responded that what was reported to Michelle Bachelet on Cambodia was unverified.
“The information is selective and from biased sources which are at opposites with the substantial achievements made on the ground.
“Cambodia has nearly 6,000 registered NGOs, and the government holds regular consultative meetings with them.
“All citizens are treated equally before the law regardless of their political affiliations, professions or social status,” he said.
The concerns were also raised by representatives of EU, Australia and France. The EU, in its statement, reiterated the call on Cambodia to take immediate action to re-open the political space in the country, to re-establish the necessary conditions for credible, democratic opposition, as well as to lift all restrictions on the space for civil society and media.
“We also urge the Cambodian authorities to reinstate the political rights of all opposition members banned from political life and to release without conditions all opposition members and activists detained on political grounds,” the statement said.
The Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN Office in Geneva, Sally Mansfield, said: “Australia calls on Cambodia to allow all political parties, civil societies and media to operate freely and to ensure due process and procedural fairness in the trial of Kem Sokha”.
But Sokkhoeurn said the representatives had “fallaciously portrayed Cambodia in selective, biased and politically motivated narratives with double standards”.
He said Cambodia had 44 registered political parties of which some were formed by the former members of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Pluralism, he said, has been upheld through the formation of a Supreme Consultative Council which comprised of the ruling party and 15 non-elected parties. The council grilled specific ministers on sensitive questions and independently investigates issues affecting social justice, he said.
“Political discourse and commenting on public affairs with insult, incited violence, racial discrimination and the call for rebellion against a people-elected government do not equate to freedom of expression or opinion,” he said.
He said all law-abiding political parties, civil society and media could operate freely, and only the law-breakers are disbanded. The practices are held true in all other countries in the UN human rights council.
With regard to the trial of the former CNRP leader Kem Sokha, the ambassador said: “The ongoing trial of Sokha has been smooth and transparent.
“The accused and his lawyers have engaged well in the legal proceedings. Representatives of foreign embassies, political parties, journalists and NGOs leave no seats vacant in the courtroom.”
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Chin Malin said on Sunday that the Human Rights Council was a political platform and what was raised was with a political agenda.
“It is the right of those countries to raise their concerns with their political agenda. But for us, we have our principles. Our law is our own and it is enshrined in our country’s sovereignty. No other state can interfere with that and try to command us,” he said.