China on Wednesday defended Cambodia against an onslaught by the UN special rapporteur for human rights, Rhona Smith, who slammed the Kingdom’s record in a speech at the UN Human Rights Council.
In a 15-minutes address in Geneva focused on recent events, Smith claimed the July 29 national elections was one-sided and spoke of the Supreme Court’s dissolution of the Cambodian National Rescue party and the jailing of its former president, Kem Sokha.
She raised the convictions of the Adhoc 5 and Australian filmmaker James Ricketson, the ban on 118 former opposition politicians, the Tep Vanny case, and others.
Smith also urged the Cambodian government to improve its human rights record in order to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and said she would be travelling to the Kingdom in the coming weeks.
The remarks were supported by some Western nations who attended the Council meeting, but not Beijing.
China’s representative Chen Cheng said his country welcomed the smooth election in Cambodia, and that Beijing supports its economic and social development. He praised Cambodia for its political stability.
“We appeal to the international community to follow the will of the Cambodian people,” said Chen.
He was supported by the representatives from Asean countries. The Myanmar representative said the global community should keep providing capacity building mechanisms to strengthen human rights in Cambodia.
“Only through engagement can human rights get to people,” he said. The view was shared by the Philippines, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.
But some countries reiterated demands for Sokha’s release and expressed concern about the July 29 election in which the ruling Cambodian People’s Party won all 125 seats in parliament.
The representative from Japan said that his country provided technical assistance for the election, but considered it disappointing.
The EU representative expressed concern for the situation in Cambodia and echoed Smith’s demands.
The EU delegation warned that it would act against Cambodia if the rights situation was not improved. He said the July election was not representative of the will of the Cambodian people and not legitimate.
Germany, Canada, New Zealand and other countries called on the Cambodian government to provide democratic space for the development of civil society, media and the opposition.
In response, the Cambodian ambassador to the UN office in Geneva, Ney Sam Ol, denounced the accusations.
“Non-credible and politically motivated sources of information have been reflected in these reports. The principal of impartial information gathering has not been applied,” Sam Ol said.
“Some allegations as well are too vague, which opens to subjective interpretation and political mutilation at the expense of our government’s reputation.
Still, he said, the “unfair treatment” would not deter the Cambodian government.
“We are committed to the principle of a multi-party democratic system in which the government will be periodically elected through a free and fair election,” Sam Ol said.
He said the high turnout in July’s election should be proof enough that democracy has taken root in Cambodian society.
“The absence of one former political party should not be interpreted as evidence that human rights and freedom of expression in Cambodia ve been undermined or curtailed,” he said.
Sam Ol confirmed that Smith would be visiting Cambodia in the coming weeks and said she was welcome.