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UN Special Rapporteur visit failed to get green light from government

UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh on Friday.
UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith speaks at a press conference in Phnom Penh on Friday. Photo supplied

UN Special Rapporteur visit failed to get green light from government

Amid a political crackdown, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Cambodia Rhona Smith called for an end yesterday to pressure on civil society and for the restoration of multiparty democracy, while her assistant revealed that Smith had applied for permission to visit the Kingdom this month but did not receive a response in time from the government.

“Restoring democracy and accepting vibrant civil society, even civil society that may be critical of government, is not only about human rights, it is also about paving the way for sustainable development and lasting peace,” she said in a statement.

Council of Ministers spokesperson Phay Siphan countered Smith’s allegations, pointing to the fact that non-ruling party members sit in the National Assembly – though those seats are held by parties that
won a combined share of less than 7 percent of the vote in the 2013 elections and were awarded the spots following the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s dissolution.

He added that most NGOs had not run afoul of the controversial Law on Associations and NGOs and that press freedom remained intact. In fact, NGOs have faced heightened scrutiny recently, and many independent media outlets have been shuttered.

Still, Siphan said Smith shouldn’t “act like a master”, adding that she “is not a policeman and is not our boss”.

According to Smith’s assistant Jennifer Kraft, the special rapporteur had asked for permission for an official mission this month, with no reply “in time for these dates”, she said by email last week. Siphan could not verify this but said the government had no responsibility to welcome her.