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Kingdom’s UN mission rebuffs ‘fallacious’ OHCHR statement

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People line up to vote in the commune elections in Kandal province’s Takhmao town, just outside the capital on June 5. Heng Chivoan

Kingdom’s UN mission rebuffs ‘fallacious’ OHCHR statement

The Cambodian Permanent Mission to the UN Office at Geneva has dismissed the “fallacious, politicised and one-sided” remarks made by a UN rights office spokesperson three days before the June 5 commune council elections.

The diplomatic mission in a June 3 statement questioned the timing of the spokesperson’s comments and her “objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity”, while dismissing her allegations as “unwarranted”.

The reaction came after the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson, Liz Throssell, issued a June 2 statement saying: “We are disturbed by the pattern of threats, intimidation and obstruction targeting opposition candidates ahead of communal elections in Cambodia on June 5.

“Candidates have faced numerous restrictions and reprisals that have hindered their activities, with imprisonment of a number of candidates that appears designed to curb political campaigning.”

Throssell also noted that among the 17 political parties registered for the June 5 elections, the Candlelight Party – the second-largest parties with candidates fielded across the country – faced a paralysing political environment and were reluctant to register complaints for fear of facing retaliatory legal proceedings. She noted that some other parties also faced hurdles.

“The right to participate in public affairs is essential to the full realisation of other human rights, and necessitates, in particular, effective protection of the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly,” she said.

The spokeswoman also mentioned Cambodia’s obligation to uphold human rights as well as the eight international human rights treaties to which the Kingdom is a state party.

“We call on the Royal Government to ensure this year’s communal elections take place in a safe and peaceful environment that promotes political plurality and respect for fundamental freedoms,” she said.

Citing an assessment by the National Election Committee (NEC), the Cambodian diplomatic mission dismissed the claims, saying that the electoral campaigns had by and large been held in a secure, safe, orderly and peaceful atmosphere, free from intimidation.

“During the [campaign season], including the [June 3] closing date, all political parties, including opposition ones, have fully exercised their rights in line with the laws and registered schedules without any threats and obstruction,” it said.

On an alleged paralysing political environment against opposition party candidates and a fear of registering complaints, the mission said Throssell was speaking ill of Cambodia as the NEC had ruled in favour of a protest lodged by an opposition candidate to cancel a monetary fine levied on him.

That case apparently referred to Kong Raiya of the Candlelight Party.

The mission added that all UN bodies should provide “genuine cooperation without any hidden agenda” to support member states, and not interfere in their internal affairs.

“The Kingdom remains steadfast in pursuing its irreversible democratic journey with pluralism, including the elections this year and next, in a free, fair, orderly, peaceful and transparent manner,” the mission said.

The commune election campaign season, which kicked off on May 21 and ended on June 3, went smoothly, without violence and with the highly active participation of the public, the NEC said.

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