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UN envoy says Paris Peace Accords ‘not yet fully fulfilled in Cambodia’

Rhona Smith speaks to the media yesterday at the OHCRH in Phnom Penh during the last day of her official visit.
Rhona Smith speaks to the media yesterday at the OHCRH in Phnom Penh during the last day of her official visit. Hong Menea

UN envoy says Paris Peace Accords ‘not yet fully fulfilled in Cambodia’

Wrapping her 10-day visit to Cambodia, UN envoy Rhona Smith yesterday said that many elements of the historic Paris Peace Accords – which turn 25 on Sunday – have yet to be “fully delivered”, singling out promises of human rights protections and free and fair elections.

The special rapporteur, on her third fact-finding mission to the country, said the 1991 agreement had laid the groundwork for the judiciary to implement the constitutional requirements to protect human rights, but that they had been implemented “in an apparently discriminatory or politicised manner”.

“I suspect that there is no doubt that many elements in the Paris Peace Agreements are not yet fully fulfilled in Cambodia – many of the those elements relating to the fundamental protection of human rights,” she said at a press conference yesterday.

Reacting to those comments, government spokesman Phay Siphan said Smith was wilfully ignoring that the language in the accords had long since been superseded by the “supreme law of the land”: the Kingdom’s constitution.

“Who is to say whether it is fully implemented or not? She is a special rapporteur,” Siphan said. “She insults our constitution.”

Siphan said the human rights protections in question were embedded in the constitution and the government was properly focused on implementing Cambodian laws.

During her visit, Smith met with multiple ministers, civil society organisations, indigenous groups and citizens affected by land disputes. Among the raft of issues raised were the jailings of five people over their connection to an alleged prostitution case against Cambodia National Rescue Party acting president Kem Sokha.

While Smith wasn’t able to meet the four jailed Adhoc staffers and one election official – who have been jailed for nearly six months with no trial date set – she called on the government to release them if the cases against them did not meet international evidentiary standards.

“With respect to the five detained individuals from Adhoc, I reiterate my call at the UN Human Rights Council that their charges should be proven or they should be released immediately with their case closed,” she said.

As for the ongoing tensions between the two major political parties, Smith yesterday urged engagement, though spokesmen for both parties had differing ideas of what that might mean.

Cambodian People’s Party spokesman Sok Eysan said the ruling party wasn’t opposed to negotiation, though any discussions would not broach the topic of jailed CNRP politicians or rights activists. “We won’t have two-party negotiations in order to free prisoners. If we negotiate to free prisoners, it means we are playing the role of the court.”

Opposition spokesman Eng Chhay Eang yesterday maintained that while they considered the cases politically motivated, they had no “pre-conditions” for negotiations. “What’s important is that they open the door for talks. When we talk, we believe we will find the solution,” he said.

After meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen during her first visit last year, Smith said it had been difficult to schedule a meeting with the premier since, adding that it was unfortunate she could not discuss pressing issues directly with him.

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