A week after a damning report by ASEAN parliamentarians on the government’s attacks on the opposition, the state-run Cambodian Human Rights Committee said the assessment was flawed and failed to acknowledge the prime minister’s record on human rights for which he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, the body’s president said.
The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights’ (APHR) Death Knell for Democracy report last week called the government’s systematic use of the judiciary and the National Assembly to target the opposition an attempt to dismantle democratic principles in the country.
Keo Remy, head of the government-aligned committee, held a press conference yesterday dismissing the report, saying the APHR did not represent the views of ASEAN and was going against the bloc’s policy of noninterference.
According to Remy, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s fight against the Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge – of which he was once also a member – culminated in the January 7, 1979, liberation from the brutal regime, and was testament to the premier’s human rights credentials.
“It is time for those who work in human rights to offer him [Hun Sen] the Nobel Peace Prize or an award for human rights,” he said.
Remy also said the APHR was not a recognised ASEAN body, asking it not to impinge on the bloc’s principle of non-interference in other member states’ affairs.
Remy’s criticism comes days after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a strongly worded statement calling the report factually incorrect and based on unfounded accusations. It did not, however, point out any specific inaccuracies or errors.
APHR’s chair Charles Santiago said the continued pushback to the report showed that APHR had clearly hit a nerve.
“The continued reaction to our well-researched and thoroughly sourced report suggests that the Cambodian government knows they’ve got a lot to account for and would prefer to bury their heads in the sand rather than confront these issues and engage in necessary reforms,” he said.
Human Right Watch’s Phil Robertson, who was also attacked by the Foreign Ministry, dismissed the CHRC for being a government-appointed body with no independence from the prime minister or Council of Ministers.
He was also perplexed with Remy’s peace prize proposal for Hun Sen, saying “this Nobel prize suggestion is so ridiculous that perhaps Remy deserves a prize for best song and dance performance”.