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UN ambassador scoffs at US concern over Kingdom’s civics

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An Sokkhoeurn, permanent representative of the Cambodian Permanent Mission to the UN Offices in Geneva. CAMBODIA EMBASSY

UN ambassador scoffs at US concern over Kingdom’s civics

The head of the Cambodian Permanent Mission to the UN Offices in Geneva has denounced a comment made by his US counterpart concerning the civil and political situation in Cambodia, accusing her of “weaponising” human rights to advance the US political agenda.

An Sokkhoeurn, permanent representative of the mission, made the remarks on March 8 in response to the oral statement of ambassador Michele Taylor of the US delegation at the 49th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

Taylor said: “In Cambodia, we are concerned by the ongoing targeting of the political opposition, the closing of civic spaces, and the arrest of workers peacefully exercising their right to strike.”

Sokkhoeurn hit back, saying that it was “unwarranted” to suggest that the opposition party was being targeted.

“An affiliation with political parties and civil society organisations is not a licence to break the law with impunity. Individuals are charged on the basis of law-prescribed offences rather than who they are,” he said.

Sokkhoeurn also questioned Taylor’s subsequent allegation of restriction on civil liberties in the Kingdom. “We also challenge the indictment of the closing of civic spaces. Numbers do not lie. If civil society freedoms are “restrictive”, then why does the number of registered NGOs keep rising – to nearly 6,000 [now]?”

He added that the “grievances” come from a “handful of heavily politicised and foreign-funded NGOs who demand transparency, yet refuse to demonstrate it themselves”.

Sokkhoeurn pointed out the situation in the US, which he noted had encountered “systematic human rights abuses for years”, including what he referred to as “double standards and hypocrisies”.

He singled out the January 6 riots in Washington, DC, last year, where over 700 people were arrested and charged with various offences after descending on – and attacking – the US Capitol.

In the same year, more than 50 journalists were arrested and detained across the US, he noted. Social media accounts of “a former president” – ostensibly referring to Donald Trump – for demonstrating “just an opposing view” were banned. Citing UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres, he said “human rights must not be weaponised with double standards”.

He concluded his statement by saying that the advancement of all rights and freedoms is “our shared ultimate goal.

“As [US] Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently emphasised, every nation has the right to choose its own futures and own path,” he said.

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