Rhona Smith, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, yesterday said the government must implement the rule of law in line with international standards and not use legislation to curtail political participation or freedom of expression.
Ms Smith is on a 10-day mission to the Kingdom and yesterday met with Keo Remy, chairman of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee.
After the meeting, Ms Smith told reporters that she spoke with Mr Remy about the current path being taken by the government, which has cracked down on its critics and the only legitimate opposition through the use of legislation.
“I did discuss the need to have full rights of political participation in Cambodia and for the views of the people who vote in the election to be respected and recognised,” she said. “I discussed the need to make sure that the laws in Cambodia are applied compatibly with international human rights standards, particularly looking at the laws used to restrict or limit freedom of expression in the country.”
Ms Smith was alluding to the government’s recent crackdown on the former opposition CNRP, the only legitimate contender for the upcoming national election that was dissolved by the Supreme Court in November.
On November 16, the Supreme Court dissolved the opposition CNRP and barred 118 senior members from politics for five years in the wake of party president Kem Sokha being jailed on treason charges for allegedly colluding with a foreign power to topple the government through a colour revolution.
Ms Smith was also alluding to a crackdown on media organisations critical of the government that led to the closure of dozens of radio stations and the Cambodia Daily newspaper.
Mr Remy said yesterday that he told Ms Smith the government was not abusing the law, or using legislative amendments to silence opposition parties or critical media, but rather implementing the rule of law as any other democratic country.
“I told Ms Smith that the government is walking on the right path,” Mr Remy said. “A country that is led without the implementation of laws will lead to anarchy.”
“The government must look after its millions of citizens and dare to make decisions that may affect human rights for some, but look after the country as a whole,” he added. “All countries have to respect the law. When there is peace and stability, respect for human rights can flourish.”