AT the end of his second official mission to Cambodia, the UN’s special rapporteur for human rights has sounded an optimistic note, describing as “open and candid” his discussions with senior officials.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Surya Subedi said that although Cambodia “still falls short” of standards outlined in international rights treaties, there has been considerable progress since his last visit.
“I am encouraged by the progress made by Cambodia in a number of areas since my last visit in June 2009, and by the willingness on the part of the government to work with me to identify the problems and address them together,” he said in the statement.
Subedi said areas of progress included the strengthening of the legal framework to manage land evictions and resettlements, the adoption of an updated Penal Code and “continued efforts” to reform the prison system.
He added: “I hope that the government will move towards more inclusive, participatory and transparent decision-making processes on issues which have a direct impact on people’s human rights.”
Subedi, who held meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials during his 12-day visit, said his mission had moved beyond the “familiarisation” phase to one in which he would offer recommendations for improving the rights situation here.
Recommendations in the statement included raising the budget for the court system in a bid to promote judicial independence and bolstering the National Assembly’s status as a forum for open debate.
Subedi noted that although officials had been “receptive” to a recommendation for a set of national guidelines on land evictions and resettlements, they did not agree to a moratorium on evictions in the interim.
“The difficulty [is] that developmental activities have to be carried on,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
Subedi’s statement shied away from direct criticisms of the government. In an interview with the Post on Friday, he described the journey towards full promotion of human rights as “a long one, anywhere in the world”.
“The contribution that our mission can make to the history of this nation is to mature the process and move it forward,” he said.
Hang Chhaya, executive director of the Khmer Institute for Democracy, said Subedi’s “diplomatic” style differed greatly from that of his
predecessor, Yash Ghai, who had a notoriously stormy relationship with the government, adding that it could yet prove effective.
“As soon as he touches down, he is able to get a visit with the prime minister, so [the visit] could be productive,” he said.
Subedi is set to report the findings of his trip to the UN Human Rights Council in March.