A ministry of Justice official has said respect for human rights in the Kingdom is far better than in some countries in the region and around the world, and an evaluation that ranks Cambodia near the bottom of the list is politically motivated and does not reflect reality.
The comments came after the Washington, DC-based World Justice Project (WJP) on February 28 placed Cambodia 125th out of 126 countries in its 2019 Rule of Law Index.
Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said on Thursday that a one-party country with no elections, a country ruled by the military, also with no elections, and a country in conflict with no respect for religion or culture were placed higher than Cambodia on the list rating countries by their human rights record.
“Our human rights situation is not as bad as their rank claims if we compare [Cambodia] to some countries in the world. If we look at the data they used in their research, we can clearly see that they focused on Cambodian political events and linked them to civil and political rights."
“But if they used a scientific research method in order to find a real evaluation of human rights in a country, they would look at all kinds of human rights . . . divided, according to international principles, into three types – economic, social and cultural rights; civil and political rights; and specific individual rights,” he said.
In a public speech at the ministry, Malin explained the three kinds of human rights to more than 100 students.
“Measuring economic, social and cultural rights involves studying poverty rates, investment flows, peace, stability, civil order, development, unemployment rates, social harmony, religion and culture."
“Civil and political rights concern freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of association and freedom to create political parties."
“Examples of specific individual rights are children’s and women’ rights, the rights of people with disabilities and the rights of same-gender partners. This is the only scientific method that can be used to evaluate the real human rights situation in Cambodia,” Malin said.
He said the dissolution of an opposition party for treason is in accordance with Cambodian law and constitutional law.
WJP claims its annual index “measures how the rule of law is experienced and perceived by the general public worldwide” and is “based on more than 120,000 households and 3,800 expert surveys”.
It also claims to measure a country’s rule of law performance across eight factors – constraints on government powers; absence of corruption; open government; fundamental rights; order and security; regulatory enforcement; civil justice; and criminal justice.
Soeung Sen Karuna, the senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, said the reason WJP ranked Cambodia’s rule of law performance below some countries which are experiencing conflict is that Cambodia has a different context.
He said Cambodia is a signatory to the Paris Peace Accords which in 1991 ended its civil war, has regular democratic elections, respects human rights and has signed many treaties.
“This evaluation could focus on those things. Many agreements have been ratified by Cambodia but we don’t respect some of the agreements."
“Have all countries under conflict ratified agreements like Cambodia? Cambodia has ratified many laws [regarding human rights], but we don’t always fulfil those agreements,” he claimed.