As the government yesterday slammed a report by Freedom House for rating the Kingdom as not free, vice president of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee Chin Malin sat down with Khmer Times during a Cross-Talk interview to defend the country’s human rights track record.
Mr Malin, who is also the Justice Ministry’s spokesman, said the government is currently reviewing about 200 recommendations made by 73 countries during last month’s United Nations’ Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in Geneva, Switzerland.
A Cambodian delegation made of various ministries was led by CHRC president Keo Remy to attend the UPR, where Cambodia was one of 14 states reviewed.
The delegation defended the Kingdom’s rights record as the UN’s UPR suggested the government improve the Kingdom’s human rights track record.
Mr Malin yesterday said CHRC will soon hold a meeting with ministries, development partners and members of civil society to consider which recommendations should be implemented by the government.
“In general, we will consider which recommendations we should accept to implement because we can’t implement them all as some are against Cambodian laws, contradictory to what is actually happening on the ground or do not reflect efforts made by the government,” he said.
Mr Malin said Cambodia will submit a response prior to the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in July.
During the Cross-Talk interview, Mr Malin noted that Cambodia had two choices: accept the recommendations and implement them immediately, or have discussions with institutions upon returning from Geneva.
“We have not consulted with the institutions on which recommendations we should accept. In principle, we only accept constructive recommendations,” he said.
We can’t accept [political] recommendations because they oppose Cambodian laws and interfere with the independence of the judiciary.”
Member states such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom said the government should allow banned former opposition politicians to return to politics, while China said the international community “should respect the will of the Cambodian people and its government”.
“I don’t understand those countries, they criticise our courts as not independent and accused our government of interfering in the court’s affairs, but they recommended that the government interfere in the court’s affairs,” Mr Malin added. “Most of the political criticisms were related to Kem Sokha and the Cambodia National Rescue Party – [Western countries] want Kem Sokha released, the CNRP reinstated and the political rights of its senior officials reinstated.”
Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator with rights group Adhoc, yesterday said the government should focus on easing political tension and implementing recommendations that would solve the current political crisis.
“We should also accept the political criticisms because those are the keys needed to ease tensions and the political crisis,” he said. “We should understand that these recommendations were based on individual accounts, via the evaluation of the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other local civil society reports.”
Meanwhile, government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday slammed a report from US-based NGO Freedom house ranking the Kingdom as “not free”.
According to Freedom House, civil liberties and political rights scored five out of seven and six out of seven, respectively. It noted that a score of seven is considered “least free”.
He said the report was made to discredit the government and that it was politically motivated and baseless.
“The Cambodian government would not do anything just to please an international organisation that is politically motivated,” Mr Siphan said. “The report had no clear evidence to convince us otherwise.”
He said that the government is on the right track toward economic development and respecting the rule of law.
“Cambodia’s freedom is not defined by this foreign NGO,” Mr Siphan said. “I believe our people know how much effort the government has put in to ensure peace and security.”
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan said the report did not reflect what is actually going on in the Kingdom.
“Civil liberties and political rights in Cambodia are much better if we compare with neighbouring countries,” he said. “The evaluation made by Freedom House does not represent what is actually happening – the report is politically motivated.”
According to Freedom House, last year’s national election was severely repressive and voters had no meaningful choices due to the dissolution of the CNRP.
Mr Sen Karuna said the government should consider what the report said, noting that many local civil society groups share the same sentiment as Freedom House.
“A lot of countries have faith in this report because it had clear arguments and supporting ideas,” Mr Sen Karuna said. “I think the government should accept their faults and make changes.”