The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia yesterday called for a lift on the ban of 118 senior members of the opposition CNRP from politics so they can take part in the national election in July.
Rhona Smith completed her 10-day mission in the Kingdom yesterday.
During a press conference yesterday, Ms Smith raised a number of issues, including curtailments to freedom of assembly and expression as well as dramatic changes to political participation and electoral rights.
“I repeat my call on the government to restore the space for any Cambodians to exercise the right to stand for election without fear or intimidation,” she said.
“I also call for an urgent reconsideration of the blanket ban on 118 political actors,” she said, referring to 118 senior CNRP members who were banned from politics for five years.
“I think that if there is no opposition party contesting the election in July then it is a serious problem,” Ms Smith said.
On November 16, the Supreme Court dissolved the CNRP and banned party members in the wake of its party leader Kem Sokha being jailed on treason charges.
Both Mr Sokha, who was jailed as authorities cited a red-handed crime which allowed his immunity to be suspended, and the party were accused by the Interior Ministry of being behind a plot to overthrow the government through a colour revolution with the aid of a foreign power.
After its dissolution, all of the CNRP’s positions were doled out to other parties, with the ruling CPP scooping up most of the available seats at the local level.
Ms Smith said that civil society was reluctant to speak openly or defend human rights following the arrest of Mr Sokha and dissolution of the CNRP.
Last week, the Supreme Court rejected bail for Mr Sokha, whose case Ms Smith also addressed.
“The dissolution of the CNRP and the ongoing detention of its former leader Kem Sokha is problematic as the evidence upon which the CNRP was dissolved is in part the same evidence as currently lies with the first instance investigating judge who is deciding whether to proceed with charges of conspiracy with a foreign power against Kem Sokha,” she said in a statement after her press conference.
Sok Eysan, spokesman for the ruling CPP, dismissed Ms Smith’s concerns over the evidence against Mr Sokha.
“What she said is untrue. Why did she talk about evidence against Kem Sokha because he revealed that he followed policy from the United States [to topple the government],” he said. “She does not understand that the former opposition party destroyed peace and caused political instability.”
“Cambodian people cannot accept it because all points being raised do not reflect what really happened in Cambodia,” he added.