Rhona Smith: Burning Cambodia for her career

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Rhona Smith, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, holds a press conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on May 9, 2019. (Xinhua/Sovannara)

Rhona Smith is ending her term as Special Rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia by the end of September this year. She has made sure that all her reports are heavily justified to prove that Cambodia is in constant human rights crisis.

For what purpose? To gain enough trust from those countries criticizing Cambodia for their own geopolitical interest so that they can vote for the extension of her mandate. Professionalism in this case is measured in terms of how much political support she could get from some Western countries.

In Cambodia, there is a saying that goes, “you burn a house to boil an egg.” The house is Cambodia, and the egg is regime change and her career in Cambodia.

In all her reports, she has succeeded in projecting the opposition group as the victim of the regime. The government’s explanations and progresses have been barely considered in her reports.

With her “mission of civilization”, she has tried to teach the government on human rights while providing a political shield to protect the opposition leaders although they violate the law and constitution. She is a rights activist and an opposition spokesperson because the opposition group, hostile NGOs and herself speak the same language, word by word.

She has never touched on the ignorance of the opposition groups and hostile NGOs on their duties and obligation as responsible citizens and politicians. Her reports always fail to reflect properly the violence-provoking conducts, the disruption of public order and the destruction of public properties made and provoked by these groups.

Like what she has never explained about Sam Rainsy’s racism, hate speech and xenophobia, she has never explained what Kem Sokha had said and done to orchestrate a regime change- the main reasons that let to his arrest and detention. She even questioned the quality of the evidence as if she is a judge.

According to the Manual of Operations of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, Paragraph 30, “Communications do not imply any kind of value judgment on the part of the Special Procedure concerned and are thus not per se accusatory. They are not intended as a substitute for judicial or other proceedings at the national level.”

However, her reports included blatant accusations made by the opposition groups and is considered by the Special Rapporteur as a ‘fait accompli’ without her questioning the accuracy of the facts, background and political motivation. On the contrary, all the government’s responses to safeguard its rightful legitimacy, sovereignty, independence and public order are categorically treated as “oppression.”

According to the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate Holders of the Human Rights Council, and the Regulations, the Special Rapporteurs are required to carry out mandate while fully respecting the national legislation and regulations of the host country.

However, Rhona Smith always ignores Cambodian laws by calling the government’s action as “rule by law.” She even questions the article related to Lese Majeste, which is equivalent to the questioning of the political system of a sovereign state.

Commenting on the case of Kem Sokha as well as calling for drop of charge is a clear interference into Cambodia’s domestic affairs. Cambodia urges the Special Rapporteur to adhere firmly to the United Nations Charter, Chapter 1, Article 2.7. which stipulates that “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”

If she believes in and adheres to the UN Charter and rules-based international order, she should understand the red line and refrain from violating Cambodia’s sovereignty and independence. Otherwise her behaviour and actions will damage the rules-based international order.

She will continue to burn Cambodia for the very existence of her works, which in fact are required in other parts of the region and the world with crimes against humanity. It all depends on the support of foreign governments that prefers Kem Sokha to Hun Sen, in other word, regime change. Her reports will be very useful for those who wish to destroy Cambodia’s reputation, its economy and people’s livelihood without taking into consideration of Cambodia’s “longest peace in modern history.”

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