Ney Sam Ol, Cambodian Ambassador to the United Nations, expressed disappointment on Tuesday in Geneva over a call made by the newly-appointed UNHCR head to release all political prisoners in the country.
During her opening remarks at the 39th Session of the Human Rights Council, Michelle Bachelet said the government has cracked down on dissent and independent media, jailing dozens, including former opposition officials.
Ms Bachelet said that the dissolution of former opposition CNRP deprived many Cambodians of their first choice of representation during this year’s national election.
“I welcome the release, over the past month, of prominent human rights defenders, two journalists and several opposition members, including Kem Sokha who was the head of the now dissolved CNRP,” she said. “But the government should also release and drop all charges against all other political actors, journalists and ordinary citizens arrested or convicted for exercising their human rights.”
Mr Sam Ol said in a statement after the session that all Cambodian citizens are equally treated before the law regardless of their political affiliation.
“Freedom of expression shall be performed with special duties and responsibilities without infringing others’ rights,” Mr Sam Ol said in the statement. “At the same time, we are disappointed that the High Commissioner and some other delegates have painted Cambodia’s civil and political rights with a deep and dark brush.”
Mr Sam Ol also said that the national election in July was hailed as a success for Cambodia. He noted that 20 political parties took part and that tens of thousands of observers were deployed to monitor the election.
“The vast majority of voters voted to give the ruling party a new mandate because [voters] crave peace, stability and development,” Mr Sam Ol said. “Offenders are prosecuted by judicial authorities not because of who they are, but because they had committed an offence. The government has no role in judicial proceedings – which is an independent and separate body as guaranteed by the constitution.”
Soeng Sen Karuna, a senior investigator at the rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that the government has always rejected objections and recommendations made by the international community, especially in relation to human rights violations.