The Foreign Affairs Ministry yesterday released a strongly worded, albeit vague, rebuttal to a harsh report released by ASEAN parliamentarians on Monday, which chided the government for its legal onslaught against the opposition and alleged the “systematic dismantling [of] democracy” in the Kingdom.
The report, titled Death Knell for Democracy, criticised the government for the sustained use of dubious legal cases against the Cambodia National Rescue Party, as well as targeting the opposition with legislative actions, such as lifting parliamentary immunity, and recent changes to the Law on Political Parties that enable the dissolution of parties whose leaders have criminal convictions.
The ministry’s statement dismissed the report, released by ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), as factually inaccurate and based on “unfounded accusations”.
“The incredible assessment contained in APHR’s report reflects only the dark concept of a few individuals who have not let facts get in the way of making their wild allegations,” it said.
Despite questioning the report, the statement does not exactly point out inaccuracies or errors, only to state that the government was part of international human rights mechanisms and treaties.
Ministry spokesman Chum Sounry did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.
APHR’s chair Charles Santiago said he stood by the report as “fully sourced and fact-based”.
“The government’s wholesale rejection of the report is especially disappointing because it demonstrates their lack of ability to take constructive criticism or engage in measures to improve in areas where most, if not all, countries have room to improve,” he said via email.
Reacting to the Foreign Ministry’s condemnation of Santiago for not upholding an “ASEAN sacred principle” of non-interference, the APHR head pointedly noted that human rights and democracy were also ASEAN principles.
CNRP lawmaker and APHR member Mu Sochua said the government response was expected, but wondered how the ministry could question the report’s veracity. “
Did the two MPs get attacked outside parliament? Yes. Did they change the Law on Political Parties? Yes,” she said. “Were there legal cases against the opposition? Yes.”
Human Right Watch’s Phil Robertson, who was present at the launch of the report, was also slammed by the ministry.
Robertson yesterday characterised the criticism as “more of the same pathetic ‘shoot the messenger’ response that they invariably resort to”.