Senior Cambodian officials said the Kingdom is happy to welcome the visit of UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia Vitit Muntarbhorn, whose recommendations will be considered based on the actual situation on the ground.
According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Vitit will pay an 11-day visit to Cambodia from August 15.
The visit will enable him to assess the situation of human rights in the country and the government’s efforts towards creating an enabling environment for the enjoyment of all human rights – including political, civil, social and cultural rights – following the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I look forward to meeting with a wide range of stakeholders including government representatives, human rights defenders and other relevant stakeholders to assess the human rights situation and Cambodia’s efforts to implement international human rights law,” said Vitit.
OHCHR said Vitit will hold many meetings across the country, meeting with national and sub-national officials, international and local civil society representatives, among others, during his visit.
He planned to hold a press conference on August 26 with attendance limited to journalists. He will then present his next report to the Human Rights Council in October.
Ny Sokha, president of rights group ADHOC, said on August 14 that his NGO and other civil society organisations working in the field will meet with Vitit to discuss the situation of human rights in Cambodia and its latest developments, as well as the current political situation.
He claimed that human rights and the political atmosphere in Cambodia had backslid ahead of next year’s national election, and that this would be raised with the UN rapporteur.
“Human rights are the basis for democracy. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are also important topics that we will mention to the UN Special Rapporteur,” he said.
Kata Orn, spokesman for the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC), said every September, reports are submitted to the UN Human Rights Council, so it is natural that Vitit would visit the country.
The CHRC has a meeting with Vitit scheduled for August 17, with human rights development and related issues on the agenda.
“Every year we meet and discuss the development of human rights that the government has made. We address the report that will be made and freely and frankly answer any enquiries that the special rapporteur may have,” he said.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said it would be a pleasure to meet with the UN experts in-person, as the most recent meetings had all been conducted online. The meetings would give Cambodia a chance to clarify any issues and provide any information they may need.
He said Cambodia also looked forward to seeing what recommendations Vitit would make and seeing which recommendations could be accepted and which could be denied, due to Cambodia’s situation and legal issues.
“In the past, some of his points were accepted, but others were contradictory to the real situation on the ground and were against Cambodia’s legal procedures and laws,” he said.
“No matter what he concludes in his report, it will be fine, as he is making it from the perspective of an independent UN expert based on his experience and opinion, not on behalf of the UN. Personal opinions can be right or wrong. We will consider what is acceptable and ignore what is not. As a sovereign state, our only consideration is what is in the best interests of the nation,” he said.