Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - UN envoy blasts gov’t in new report

UN envoy blasts gov’t in new report

Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Rhona Smith speaks at a press conference at the UN offices in Phnom Penh this year.
Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Rhona Smith speaks at a press conference at the UN offices in Phnom Penh this year. Pha Lina

UN envoy blasts gov’t in new report

An advance release of UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith’s upcoming report to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) gives the government poor marks on a raft of social and political issues, prompting a government spokesman last night to declare that the former professor “doesn’t deserve to work in Cambodia”.

The report, obtained last night, touches on everything from democratic safeguards to the treatment of indigenous peoples, and is near-universally critical, arriving at the conclusion that recent developments “suggest that the law is increasingly being used to restrict the democratic space in the country”.

Smith’s report is due to be delivered to the HRC in Geneva on September 28. The rapporteur – who was derided just two months ago by human rights observers for being perceived as having a cosy relationship with the government – reserved her most incendiary remarks for the Kingdom’s current political situation.

Citing “a raft of arrests, detentions, charges and convictions against members of political parties and civil society”, the report paid special attention to the use of the judiciary, which she said, gives “the impression of restrictions applied in furtherance of political objectives”.

Several opposition and civil society members have been besieged by court cases widely considered to be politically motivated. CNRP president Sam Rainsy is in self-imposed exile to avoid jail, and his deputy Kem Sokha remains holed up in party headquarters to avoid arrest after being convicted last week for failing to honour court summonses.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan, however, responded to Smith’s assertion by arguing that Sokha had defied a court order, and that he and NGO staffers arrested after being caught up in his alleged sex scandal are obliged to face the charges against them in front of a judge.

“The law has been approved by the National Assembly and so [has] nothing to do with the government,” Siphan said. “The house of representatives represented the will of the people as a majority. The law depends on the culture of each country.”

In her report, Smith also mourned the loss of Cambodians’ constitutionally protected freedom of expression.

“It was, until recently, a characteristic of Cambodian society, contributing to open debate and discussion,” she wrote, noting that “an ever wider range of laws are being used to impose restrictions”.

Siphan, however, maintained that free expression remains protected under the law, “but they have to comply and cooperate with the local authorities”.

The special rapporteur also weighed in on the ongoing voter registration process, recommending that mechanisms be put in place to ensure migrant workers, along with other transient persons, are registered.

Siphan, however, countered that Smith was “not our boss, our church – we have to comply with the election law from the National Assembly”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ministry requests school opening

    The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport on Thursday said it would request a decision from Prime Minister Hun Sen to allow a small number of schools to reopen next month. Ministry spokesman Ros Soveacha said if the request is granted, higher-standard schools will reopen

  • Kingdom eyes India FTA, China deal set for August

    Cambodia is studying the possibility of establishing a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) with India to open a new market with the second-largest regional economy. This comes as an FTA with China is scheduled to be signed next month while similar negotiations with South Korea

  • Judge lands in court after crashing into alleged thief

    Sen Sok district police on Thursday sent a Koh Kong Provincial Court judge to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on manslaughter charges after he crashed his car into a woman riding a motorbike on Wednesday, killing her. District police chief Hour Meng Vang told The

  • Gov’t to boost Siem Reap tourism

    The Ministry of Tourism released the results of an inter-ministerial committee meeting concerning Siem Reap province’s Tourism Development Master Plan for 2020-2035 on Wednesday, revealing the government’s plan to improve the overall tourist landscape there. The meeting was attended by Minister of Tourism

  • Residents ordered to remove structures on Phnom Penh’s canal

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng has ordered authorities to act against the perpetrators who built houses along the Luo 5 canal in Meanchey district. The municipal administration plans to create a committee to solve the matter. The order was given on Wednesday while Sreng led

  • ‘On the offensive’: Cambodia to load up on loans to stimulate economy

    As the dust settles on the economy, Cambodia comes to grips with what needs to be done to turn the economy around, starting with a big shopping list for credit ‘We are going on the offensive,” Vongsey Vissoth, Ministry of Economy and Finance permanent secretary

  • Government set to make up for cancelled April holiday

    The government is set to make up for a five-day Khmer New Year holiday late this month or early next month. The holiday was earlier cancelled due to the onset of Covid-19. The announcement is expected on Friday as the government is studying a range

  • Families told to register for cash handouts

    The government has called on poor families to apply to commune authorities for evaluation to receive financial support during the Covid-19 crisis. A $300 million budget has been planned for implementation within a year. Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Visoth said this

  • Crumbling prices, rent ruffle condo segment

    The prolonged decline in international arrivals to Cambodia intensified by renewed Covid-19 fears has driven down condominium sales prices and rental rates in Phnom Penh, a research report said. CBRE Cambodia, the local affiliate of US commercial real estate services and investment firm CBRE Group

  • Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

    Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said. As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each. The figures