The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued a statement of concern on Friday regarding the jailing of Kong Raiya, 25, over a Facebook status in August seemingly calling for a “colour revolution”.
The statement described Raiya’s case as “a clear diminishing of democratic space in Cambodia”.
Raiya was sentenced to 18 months in Prey Sar prison last Tuesday. The OHCHR statement equated Raiya’s incarceration with criminalisaing his right to freedom of expression.
Raiya’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, was pleased with the statement. He said yesterday he would like to take Raiya’s case to international human rights courts, but was unsure of the logistics and financing.
“I need support,” Sokong said. “It would be a model case if it came to an international court. Not just for Cambodia, other countries could take it as an example.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak was not so thrilled with the OHCHR’s statement.
“The UN, they have a different view from Cambodia on this. Cambodia, we are implementing our law. We don’t allow people to cause chaos. Surely it is our internal affair of Cambodia, it’s under the jurisdiction of our court,” said Sopheak.
“Of course, they brought the human rights to Libya with a colour revolution, look at Libya today.”
OHCHR regional spokesman Jeremy Laurence did not say what response the statement had garnered from the government.
However, he did say via email that “a number of worrisome developments have been taking place in Cambodia recently”, including problematic laws and misuses of the judicial system, all of which “impact on freedom of expression, assembly and association”.
The OHCHR’s remarks echoed UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia Rhona Smith’s comments last November that the Kingdom was headed for a “dangerous tipping point”.
Smith is expected to arrive today for a 10-day visit focusing on racial and ethnic discrimination faced by women and indigenous people. “Full equality of rights and freedoms remains problematic,” she said yesterday.
“This mission includes field visits to develop my understanding of the problems and good practice in protecting the rights of women and indigenous peoples,” she said.
Cambodian Center for Human Rights legal consultant Pat de Brun will meet with Smith today. “I think it’s welcome that light will be shed on issues involving these two groups,” said de Brun.
However, he added, there were other human rights issues in the country, and hoped Smith would use her influence to improve the Kingdom’s overall human rights situation.
The findings from Smith’s visit will be presented in a September report to the Human Rights Council.
Additional reporting by Kong Meta