Cambodia’s permanent representative to the UN An Sokkhoeurn and Cambodian Human Rights Committee vice-president Chin Malin said remarks made by representatives of the EU, Australia and France on the human rights situation in the Kingdom are “biased and politically motivated”.
The statement came at the 43rd session of the Human Rights Council on February 28 in Geneva, Switzerland as the Kingdom’s rights of reply to the EU, Australia and France.
During the discussion, Croatia, on behalf of the EU, called on the Cambodian government “to allow [the presence of] credible democratic opposition movements [in the Kingdom],” while Australia voiced concern about the “restriction on civil and political rights in Cambodia”. A representative from France noted the situation in Cambodia as concerning as demonstrated by the supposed “constant shrinking of civic space”.
Mr Malin, also a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, yesterday said the criticisms were spurred by a “political agenda” from the said countries.
“Those countries took the session as an opportunity to enforce its political agenda [to criticise Cambodia],” said Mr Malin. “However, the Kingdom maintains its stance to defend its sovereignty. We adhere to the principle of non-interference while respecting the principles set forth by the national and international laws.”
“Despite their politically-motivated criticisms, the Kingdom will continue to respect the rule of law and advocate for multi-party democracy,” he said.
Additionally, Mr Sokkhoeurn at the session attested to an enhanced open political space in the Kingdom.
“The amended Political Party Law paved way for lifting the ban on political activities of 118 former opposition members. Nine of them, who were rehabilitated, formed new parties thus making the number of registered parties in Cambodia to 44,” Mr Sokkhoeurn said.
He added: “While many more [former opposition members] wished to seek reinstatement [to engage in political activities], they were blocked by their own leadership, who branded those doing so as ‘traitors’. Unfortunately, the aforementioned countries turned a blind eye to this.”
He added that the Supreme Consultative Council comprised of the ruling party and 15 non-elected parties was created in 2018.
“It regularly grills specific ministers on sensitive questions and independently investigates issues affecting social justice. Their outcomes are reported directly to the Prime Minister,” he added.
Mr Sokkhoeurn said the Kingdom has more than 1,000 print and online media, TV and radio stations while the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia broadcast in Khmer is accessible online without censorship.
“Last year, the government authorised the registration of VOA’s bureau in the Kingdom. Cambodia is home to 7.8 million Facebook users, a powerful platform that allows for the sharing of public opinion,” he said.
However, Mr Sokkhoeurn noted: “Political discourse and commenting on public affairs with offensive rhetoric, as well as inciting violence, racial discrimination and calling for rebellion against a people-elected government do not equate to freedom of expression and opinion.”
He also explained that the ongoing trial of former CNRP leader Kem Sokha, which has likewise been met with criticism from foreign countries, has been smooth and transparent.
“The accused and his lawyers have engaged well in the legal proceedings. Representatives of foreign embassies, political parties, journalists and NGOS leave no seats vacant in the courtroom,” he said.
He claimed the Kingdom adheres to the principle of non-politicisation.