The Kingdom’s efforts and progress in human rights were “accentuated” at the 52nd session of the Human Rights Council (HRC52), which concluded on April 4, according to a statement issued the next day by the Cambodian Permanent Mission to the UN Office in Geneva.

The Human Rights Council (HRC) “hosted a total of 57 meetings and adopted 43 resolutions on thematic and country-specific issues” at the six-week session, which occurred from February 27 to April 4, the statement said.

At HRC52, it said, the Kingdom inked “up to 13 joint statements proposed by ASEAN, the Non-Aligned Movement, and Countries of the Like-Minded Group” on a range of topics.

These included “the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, food security, academic freedoms, special procedures mandate holders, [Universal Periodic Review], technical assistance and capacity-building, right to development, [and] unilateral coercive measures”, it added.

The permanent mission also “delivered a total of 22 statements, featuring the normative and practical achievements and progress of Cambodia in all categories of human rights – civil, political, social, economic and cultural, including the right to development”, it noted.

“In 2021, the Cambodian government launched a ‘blossom strategy’ to [distribute] Covid-19 vaccines in a free and non-discriminatory manner, including for foreign residents and inmates,” it said.

On a similar note, the Ministry of Health reported that 15.283 million people, or 95.52 per cent of Cambodia’s estimated 16 million population, had been vaccinated with at least one Covid-19 dose as of April 7. No new Covid deaths have been officially logged for any date after April 19, 2022.

“More than 95 per cent of our total population has been inoculated. Since April last year, Cambodia has recorded no fatality, and near-zero new Covid-19 cases each week, [in a reflection of] the Kingdom's effective mechanisms in combating the pandemic,” the statement said.

It also noted that the government “has introduced several measures to strengthen social protection schemes to support vulnerable people”.

As a case in point, $960 million were provided to poor and vulnerable households struck by Covid, through twelve rounds of a cash assistance programme, “benefiting nearly 2.8 million people, including children, elderly people and those with disabilities”, it said, throwing in a pension scheme for private sector workers as another example.

It shared that some 17,000ha of residential and agricultural land were “allocated to over five thousand landless and land-poor families” via the Land Allocation for Social and Economic Development Project Phase II. “Its third phase is being implemented with a total budget of around one hundred million US dollars over a period of five years.

“As of late 2022, the [government] has granted more than one million hectares of land to nearly five hundred thousand families and built nearly eight thousand houses under the Social Land Concession [Programme],” it said.

A variety of policies as well as action and gender mainstreaming strategic plans have been introduced to empower women, tackle gender inequality and promote ecological sustainability, it said, adding that Cambodia “attaches high priority to preventive and protective measures to eliminate all forms of violence and exploitation against children.

“Cambodia cherishes the lawful role of registered CSOs [civil society organisations] rising to nearly 6,000,” it affirmed. Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin in June put the number of CSOs at “more than 6,000”, hailing the Kingdom as a “civil society paradise”.

The statement added that the engagement of CSOs – which it assured is “enabled freely at both national and sub-national levels in policy and law-making process” – “has contributed to, among [other things], the enhancement of good governance, justice system and human rights.

“Their critical views on public affairs are also well facilitated by Cambodia's high mobile internet penetration at the lowest cost in the region, and further empowered by nearly 2,000 traditional and digital media outlets operating without any censorship or restriction as guaranteed by the Law on Press Regime.

“A purported ‘independent’, free, or ‘political’ status is not a licence to break the law with impunity. To qualify the law enforcement as restriction of freedoms of certain groups is to denigrate the rule of law and its equal application to all citizens,” it stressed.

The statement affirmed that the Kingdom supports the HRC’s “even-handed approach”, which it said follows the principles of “non-selectivity, non-politicisation, non-confrontation and no double standards” and has a “view to fostering genuine dialogue and cooperation”.