Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday slammed a statement by the UN human rights office which highlighted concerns over the political and fundamental rights of those criticising the government.
He said the statement “does not reflect the truth” and goes against the UN’s role of working in partnership with member governments.
It a statement released last week, the UN team expressed concerns over what it perceived as government moves to silence political opponents.
The statement, penned by UN Special Rapporteurs Rhona Smith and David Kaye, said: “According to information received, more than 140 members of the former CNRP have been questioned by the authorities, summoned or detained in relation to attendance at gatherings and comments made in support of […] former [CNRP] leaders Kem Sokha and Sam Rainsy.”
The UN experts also called on the government to focus on changing the political culture to one of dialogue that focuses on issues rather than people.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion at the Royal Academy of Cambodia yesterday, Mr Siphan dismissed Ms Smith and Mr Kaye statement as just being individual opinions.
“Recently journalists reported the concern from the UN agency and we view it as just an opinion from the UN representatives in Cambodia,” Mr Siphan said, noting that the statement has caused confusion among the public.
He noted that in 2014 Prime Minister Hun Sen initiated a culture of dialogue with then opposition leader Sam Rainsy but this was later completely destroyed by the former CNRP before it was dissolved by the Supreme Court in 2017.
The “culture of dialogue” between the CNRP and CPP began in 2014 when Mr Hun Sen and opposition leader Sam Rainsy reached an agreement to end the opposition’s nearly year-long boycott of parliament following disputed 2013 national elections.
“The statement came from an agency and not from the UN or the UN Security Council,” he noted. “So, it is just rhetoric from the officials who issue their own opinions which go against the code of conduct of UN representatives in Cambodia.”
Mr Siphan said the government welcomes any opposition leaders who are not involved with any court case to return to the Kingdom, noting that opposition leaders who have been convicted by the court can request for royal pardons through Mr Hun Sen.
“The royal government welcomes their return, we welcome them to join politics…they can request the government to restore their political rights,” he said. “[But] they cannot bring in foreigners to interfere in Cambodia’s internal affairs.”
Ney Samol, Cambodia’s Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva, last week said that he is not surprised by the UN team’s statement about human rights, democracy and rule of law in Cambodia.
“There is no surprise because it is often observed that in their eyes the Government is presumed guilty until proven guilty in relation to any law enforcement action,” he noted.
He said article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that freedom of expression has to be carried out with special responsibilities, taking into account the respect for the rights and reputation of others, national security and public order.
“Political rhetoric full of incitement, hatred and discrimination, violence, harassment, abuse, appealing for riots and calling for rebellion against the legitimately elected government is not the right to freedom of expression or opinion,” Mr Samol said. “A Special Rapporteur is not a judge to decide who shall be indicted or acquitted.”