Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Hun Sen, rapporteur meet

Hun Sen, rapporteur meet

Rhona Smith, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, shakes hands with Prime Minister Hun Sen during a meeting at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh yesterday.
Rhona Smith, UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, shakes hands with Prime Minister Hun Sen during a meeting at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh yesterday. AFP

Hun Sen, rapporteur meet

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday called on United Nations special rapporteur Rhona Smith not to infringe on Cambodian sovereignty, as the pair met in Phnom Penh during Smith’s first official visit to the Kingdom.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting at the Peace Palace, Hun Sen’s spokesperson Eang Sophalleth said Smith had moved to reassure the prime minister on the issue.

“Her Excellency [Smith] informed [Hun Sen] that during her mandate she will work with the government to promote the protection of human rights without violating the sovereignty and integrity of the Cambodian government,” he said.

Smith’s office also confirmed the exchange yesterday by email.

“The issue was raised by the Prime Minister. The Special Rapporteur assured the Prime Minister that the role of the Special Rapporteur does not compromise the sovereignty of the Kingdom of Cambodia,” wrote assistant to the special rapporteur Olga Nakajo.

“According to the mandate, the role involves monitoring the situation of human rights in Cambodia and providing technical advice to the Royal Government in its efforts to protect and promote human rights for all in Cambodia,” Nakajo wrote.

However, Sophalleth explicitly acknowledged yesterday that there was often a “gap” between the government and the UN’s interpretations of the protection and promotion of human rights.

“Hun Sen told Smith during their meeting that human rights issues require understanding, and there are always different views from one case to another case in the proceedings of democracy and life,” he said.

One such case is the detention last month of three environmental activists with the NGO Mother Nature in Koh Kong province, who were involved in protests over a hydroelectric dam project and sand dredging.

According to her assistant, Smith yesterday visited Koh Kong and met with provincial authorities, though it was not reported whether she had visited the imprisoned activists.

Other cases mentioned in meetings with civil society include the recent conviction of members of the opposition Cambodian National Rescue Party on insurrection charges related to a July 2014 protest that turned violent in Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park. In July, 11 protesters received sentences of up to 20 years despite little hard evidence being provided during their trial.

Civil society groups raised these cases and other issues with Smith during a meeting in Phnom Penh last Thursday. But some in attendance cast doubt over the prospect of her visit significantly impacting on the current situation.

“I think that her visit is just to survey the position of the government on the human rights situation,” said Ny Chakrya, head of the human rights section at rights group Adhoc.

Following her visit, Smith will submit a report that will be presented at the 30th session of the UN Human Rights Council later this month.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHARLES PARKINSON

MOST VIEWED

  • Hundreds of children in hospital with dengue

    A serious dengue fever epidemic is affecting Cambodia, with nearly 600 children hospitalised in the five Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals on Monday alone, a statement posted on the Kantha Bopha Foundation’s official Facebook page said on Wednesday. Because Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospitals provide

  • Gov’t to probe Chinese exports to US via Sihanoukville

    The government is investigating allegations that Chinese companies are using Chinese-owned special economic zones in Cambodia to export goods to the US and avoid tariffs, said Ministry of Commerce spokesman Seang Thay. The move comes after US embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes said the US had

  • Sihanoukville building collapse death toll rises to 19

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said on Sunday that the government will act against those responsible for the collapse of a seven-storey building in Sihanoukville on Saturday, which resulted in 19 dead and 24 injured as of Sunday evening. Sar Kheng said three Chinese nationals and one

  • Banh: The Khmer Rouge worse than sanctions and pressure

    Minister of National Defence Tea Banh said on Thursday that having sanctions and external pressure placed on Cambodia was not worse than life under the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Tea Banh, who is also deputy prime minister, was speaking to military and ruling party officials