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US rights report ‘politically motivated’

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Justice ministry spokesman Chin Malin (left) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Heng Chivoan, US Department of State

US rights report ‘politically motivated’

The Cambodian government has denied claims by the US that it had violated the fundamental rights of citizens in 2020, calling the recently-published report by the US government “politically motivated”.

The rejection came after the US Department of State published its 45th annual human rights report on March 30. The report claims that the Cambodian government has continued to violate and restrict human rights, freedoms and political rights.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on March 31 that the report was politically motivated and did not reflect the reality of the situation in Cambodia.

“The Cambodian government has strived to end impunity, based on the enforcement of the rule of law. So, we have undertaken legal reforms to protect human dignity, fundamental freedoms and human rights,” he said.

Concerning the claims that law enforcement authorities were not permitting assemblies and gatherings, Siphan explained that this is because Cambodia is mainly concerned with public health while the government seeks to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

Similarly, Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC) and Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said any report critical of human rights in other sovereign states should be based on the technical aspects of human rights.

Malin said no country has perfectly navigated all human rights issues and no country could act as a mentor and set an example for other countries to follow because every nation has its own complex history which occurs within its own unique circumstances and individual context.

“The US itself has many human rights violations and those issues have also drawn strong criticisms from other countries during past UN human rights council meetings.

“If the report is released to levy criticisms in bad-faith and to politicise the human rights issues of other sovereign states in order to serve the US’ geopolitical ambitions in the region, then those sovereign states singled out for criticism cannot and should not accept such critiques,” Malin said.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said the government should be more open to constructive criticism to improve human rights situations in the country.

He claimed that human rights problems in Cambodia had worsened in past few years and especially in 2020 when freedom of assembly and expression had been restricted.

“During Covid-19, the human rights situation has worsened further and what the US mentioned concerns the administering of justice to victims and investigations into abuses. These investigations are yet to show any results,” he said.

Sam Ath said the arrest of environmental activists and former members of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party were in his view unjustified and had negatively affected the fundamental rights and freedoms of Cambodian citizens.

“The Cambodian authorities have always made clear that these arrests and detentions were made in accordance with Cambodian law. But apparently some human right experts and democratic countries have said the arrests are a violation of the fundamental rights and freedoms of Cambodian citizens according to the international treaties on human rights which Cambodia ratified and the Constitution,” he said.

In February, the CHRC also issued a press release on the human rights situation and law enforcement in Cambodia for 2020 as a response to critical reports accusing the Cambodian government of rights violations.

The press release said reports such as the one issued by the US State Department were biased and baseless and reflected the views of certain groups and institutions which opposed the Cambodian government.

Such reports, it said, demonstrated that their authors lacked factual knowledge and and basic understanding of Cambodia’s legal and judicial system.

Therefore, the press release stated, those reports did not reflect reality in Cambodia and were essentially political in nature as they distorted the truth by summarising events and drawing conclusions from afar without studying the underlying causes of what occurred in detail for the events they attempted to describe.

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