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UN envoy’s request to meet Sokha rejected

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia has revealed that her request to meet former opposition leader Kem Sokha has been rejected.

UN envoy Rhona Smith said in an email yesterday that she will not meet Mr Sokha during her current mission to the Kingdom.

“My request to meet with Mr Kem Sokha was denied,” Ms Smith said without elaborating.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said Ms Smith’s request was rejected due to security concerns regarding Mr Sokha.

“Sokha is under court supervision, so her request can only be fulfilled by a judge,” Mr Malin said. “There are clear reasons why Sokha is banned from seeing people listed on the court’s prohibited list.”

Mr Sokha was released on bail from Tboung Khmum province’s Trapeang Phlong prison in September. His bail conditions ban him from making trips abroad and meeting with individuals linked to his treason case.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan yesterday slammed Ms Smith for attempting to meet with Mr Sokha. Mr Siphan noted that Ms Smith’s duty is to deal with the Cambodian government.

“She is not a partner of the now-dissolved CNRP, so I think that she should just meet with government officials in order to cooperate and work together in promoting human rights in Cambodia,” Mr Siphan said.

During her visit to Cambodia, Ms Smith is expected to hold a number of meetings with various government officials.

In the email, Ms Smith noted that she is currently awaiting for her schedule to be finalised.

“I will also meet with representatives of the diplomatic community and civil society organisations working with human rights and with specific interests in the areas of this mission,” she said.

Ms Smith is expected to present her findings to the UN’s Human Rights Council next September.

Ny Sokha, a senior official with the rights group Adhoc, said his organisation met with Ms Smith on Monday to discuss concerns regarding human rights, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression.

“She will bring these matters with her to discuss with relevant government officials to see their reaction and what action will be taken,” Mr Sokha said.

Mr Malin noted that some civil society groups will always negatively reflect the government.

“[Cambodia] has progress and challenges. However, we do have lots of positive things to report to her and also our effort in addressing the challenges,” he said.

Mr Malin added that the Justice Ministry is scheduled to meet Ms Smith on Tuesday and will update her on the progress of Cambodia’s judicial reform programme.

He said that the Cambodian Human Rights Committee is scheduled to meet Ms Smith on Monday to speak about the human rights situation in the Kingdom.

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