Cambodia Hits Back After UN Rights Criticism

In Dara, Cambodian Permanent Representatvie to UN in Geneva, is seen during a meeting. Photo: Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office at Geneva

PHNOM PENH – Cambodia has deplored UN human rights criticism of its conduct towards national elections in July.

Experts from the office of the UN Human Rights Council had urged Cambodia to ensure an inclusive, genuine, and peaceful electoral process, in full respect of human rights, and to free jailed former opposition leader Kem Sokha.

They said on May 25 that this should include rights to freedom of assembly, association and expression for all political actors, civil society and voters.

“We are alarmed by the restrictions imposed on the right of political parties to participate in elections,” the experts said, calling for the elections to be held in accordance with the minimum standards for free and fair elections.

“This is essential to ensure the freely expressed will of the Cambodian people.”

They said the National Election Committee (NEC) “emphasised modalities that appear to have discriminated against one or more of the country's main political parties.

 “Coupled with intimidation of opposition members, this could be interpreted as a further restriction on political participation.”

However, the Cambodian Permanent Mission in Geneva said it deplored what it called misleading, highly politicised and selective remarks.

“The mandate of the Special Rapporteurs is to promote and protect human rights, not human wrongs,” the mission said on May 29.

“To allege that the NEC ‘emphasized modalities that appear to have discriminated against one or more of the country’s main political parties without offering further details is unwarranted.”

“To deliver a free, fair, just and transparent voting process, the NEC has been employing only one single standard to all applicants. To do otherwise is deemed a double standard.”

The Candlelight Party was not the only one with failed registration due to its own mistake. Khmer National Unity Party is another political party that did not meet the same documentation obligation, but willingly accepted the decision of the authorities concerned, it added.

“Cambodia’s commitment to a multiparty democracy remains steadfast. Only when all political parties and their supporters exercise their rights within the boundary of the law can a conducive electoral environment be guaranteed.

“The absence of two political parties from the electoral process due to their non-compliance for the law does not negate the liberal, pluralistic and democratic nature of the Kingdom.

“The call for an immediate release of Kem Sokha and other members law breaking individuals is totally inappropriate. Crime is a crime, and it cannot be justified for other aspirations. Not all rights are absolute.

“All charges are imposed in response to constitutional and criminal breach, neither a political nor a fabricated motive. The defendants enjoyed full rights to be heard and full access to legal defense.

This is a clarification of a previous version of the story which said the Special Rapporteurs were from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This clarifies that they represent the UN Human Rights Council.

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