THE UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) Cambodia monitor Rhona Smith met with the government’s rights body on Tuesday to discuss the situation in the Kingdom.
Smith wrote on Facebook that she had met Keo Remy, president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC), to be updated on the current political and human rights situation and how the CHRC’s work had progressed since her last visit in November.
The Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia said the meeting also discussed the CHRC’s report to the UNHRC in Geneva last month, its visits to prisons and correctional centres, as well as its efforts to improve conditions in such institutions.
“In addition, we discussed the implementation of the UN human rights recommendations, including through a partnership with CSOs [civil society organisations] and others, as well as following up on previous discussions on [the UN’s 2030] SDGs [sustainable development goals] and human rights.
“The government had made progress in submitting its report to the UN for independent review by independent experts, and this is, to me, encouraging that the Cambodia situation would be reviewed by a range of experts.
“So, to me, this is a positive move,” Smith said after the meeting, referring to the recommendations Cambodia received during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) held in late January.
CHRC spokesperson Chin Malin told reporters that it had shared the 172 accepted recommendations with relevant institutions and it had mechanisms in place to follow up on the progress being made.
He said Smith recommended that the CHRC put clear deadlines in place for the institutions responsible for implementing the recommendations.
The Kingdom received 198 recommendations from the UNHRC during the second UPR for Cambodia that was held in late January. However, it noted that 25 of them had a “political agenda”.
Malin said another important issue Smith raised was the situation in prisons and other correctional centres where she recommended making improvements.
“We told her that besides monitoring the situation in prisons, we have plans with the prison department to visit other correctional centres beside prisons,” he said.
Malin said he and Smith did not talk about the latest developments in politics.
“She focused only on technical aspects of exercising of human rights in Cambodia. She recommended that any work, such as preparing reports and monitoring processes, should be done with the participation of civil society organisations and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Phnom Penh.
“She said the results should be widely announced to the public,” he said.
Speaking to media after the meeting, Smith expressed disappointment after a request to meet Kem Sokha, the president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, was rejected.
Sokha has been charged with treason and is currently on bail at his home under court-imposed conditions.
“I find it is very unfortunate because, as an independent expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, I should have the right to access places of detention and also meet with detainees.
“And Kem Sokha is still detained, albeit not directly in prison, but he is still detained and has limitations on his liberty. And consequently, it’s my view that I should be entitled to meet him and have a confidential meeting and discussion with him,” she said.
However, Malin responded that the judge had the right to reject her request as Sokha’s case was still under investigation.