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Gov’t slams ‘interfering’ UN

Protesters wait outside the Senate building last week in Phnom Penh as government officials vote on the controversial Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations.
Protesters wait outside the Senate building last week in Phnom Penh as government officials vote on the controversial Law on Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations. Vireak Mai

Gov’t slams ‘interfering’ UN

Cambodia has rebuked the United Nations after a UN office released a statement admonishing recent political developments in the Kingdom, while an opposition lawmaker is making a last-minute attempt to stop one of those developments from becoming law.

Last Friday, the Senate passed a draft NGO law that was viewed by rights groups as muzzling the sector, while on July 21, 11 opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party activists were sentenced to prison terms of seven to 20 years for a street protest that turned violent a year ago.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) lambasted both events on Monday.

“The draft law threatens the existence of a free and independent civil society in Cambodia and the crucial work that NGOs in the country carry out on development, governance, and human rights,” their statement reads.

The OHCHR also said it was “concerned” over the perception that the government had influenced the outcome of the trial of the 11 activists.

The Cambodian government did not take kindly to the criticism.

A statement from the Press and Quick Reaction Unit released yesterday condemned OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani for the statement.

“Shamdasani’s allegations are baseless and violate the principle of rule of law, and [the allegations] clearly disagree with the National Assembly, showing deep interference into the law’s process, because all laws must be adopted by the Assembly, the Senate, and signed by the King.”

The PQRU also denounced the OHCHR’s stance on the imprisonment of the CNRP activists, saying the courts are “free [to operate] without any government interference.”

Meanwhile, the CNRP filed a 15-page complaint today with the Constitutional Council in a last-minute attempt to stop the NGO law before it is signed by the King and becomes the law of the land.

CNRP lawmaker Son Chhay, one of the complaint’s authors, said he hoped the move would cause both parties to “amend [the law] together to prepare a very good law to help our society and protect the rights of citizens and organisations as stated in the constitution and international law”,Chhay said he remained sanguine despite the Council’s reputation as a rubber stamp for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“There are some telling me not to hope, because the Council is only waiting for what the government party proposes, but I am not hopeless.

I believe that based on the principles [involved], that the Council will try to inspect my proposal relating to the unconstitutionality of the law”, he said.

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