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Concerns aired at HRC over gov't treatment of Sokha, civil society

A woman organises thumbprinted petitions addressed to the Royal Palace at the CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh last month.
A woman organises thumbprinted petitions addressed to the Royal Palace at the CNRP headquarters in Phnom Penh last month. Hong Menea

Concerns aired at HRC over gov't treatment of Sokha, civil society

Multiple countries yesterday raised concerns at a Human Rights Council session in Geneva over the “deterioration” of the human rights situation in Cambodia and the “harassment” of acting CNRP president Kem Sokha.

The US, Japan, UK, France and the Netherlands, on behalf of the EU, aired their apprehensions over criminal proceedings against Sokha and jailed human rights activists during the general debate section of the 32nd session of the Human Rights Council.

“We are concerned about the current escalation of political tensions in Cambodia, which seems to have resulted in a considerable narrowing of space for legitimate and normal activities by opposition parties and civil society organisations,” said Ambassador Misako Kaji, representing the Permanent Mission of Japan in Geneva.

Kaji expressed concern at the breakdown of the “culture of dialogue” between the two main political parties and said the Cambodian government needed to fulfil its commitment to implement its obligations under international human rights treaties and conventions.

The Netherlands said they shared the concerns expressed by UN human rights organisations over the current political situation and called on the authorities to “resume a peaceful and constructive dialogue with the opposition”.

While a transcript of the Cambodian delegates’ response was not immediately available yesterday evening, Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he did not pay any attention to international human rights bodies, whose only intention was to target Prime Minister Hun Sen.

“They will tell Hun Sen about human rights,” he said. “But if Kem Sokha abuses a woman they say nothing.”

He said countries were wrong to call Sokha’s case a human rights issue when the courts were just implementing the rule of law.

“I refuse to answer anymore about these human rights bodies because they don’t have any credibility,” he added.

Yesterday, a government committee, headed by police chief Neth Savoeun, met to discuss the findings of their investigation into allegedly fraudulent thumbprints on a petition submitted by the CNRP to King Norodom Sihamoni, though the results were yet to be made public.

Spokesman for the committee Korng Sokhorn said investigators had found “many irregularities” with the thumbprints, but would not confirm how many were fraudulent.

“Some people who are dead also have their names and thumbprints [on the petition],” he said. “People who have migrated to work abroad also have their thumbprints on it.”

He said he could not detail the investigative techniques used to ascertain these inconsistencies, but maintained that experts were involved in the process. “We cannot tell the exact time when they will send the investigation results to the Ministry of Interior; it could be at the end of this week or early next week,” he said.

However, Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said experts used computer systems to examine the thumbprints against a database.

“The experts know what to do and how to verify using a computer and the identity card database,” he said, referring to fingerprints collected by the government when issuing a national identity cards.

He added that $20,000 was given to the committee to conduct the investigation, as an “incentive to encourage the commission” to work hard.

While Sopheak has said that CNRP lawmaker Yem Ponhearith could face legal action for submitting the petition to the King, yesterday he said the ministry will wait for recommendations from the committee before taking their next step.

CNRP chief whip Son Chhay dismissed the investigation, saying it was pointless. “This kind of an investigation is not needed at all. It is a waste of time and money,” he said.

Senior CNRP members attend a party meeting in Manila earlier this week with self exiled party leader Sam Rainsy (right). Photo supplied
Senior CNRP members attend a party meeting in Manila earlier this week with self exiled party leader Sam Rainsy (right). Photo supplied

At the conclusion of a three-day meeting in Manila, the CNRP released a press release yesterday saying party lawmakers apprised self-exiled leader Sam Rainsy of the political situation in the country.

The results of the meeting will be discussed by the party’s permanent committee today.

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