Cambodian Human Rights Committee president Keo Remy on Friday hailed his attendance at the United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review in Switzerland as a success.
Mr Remy, who is also an attaché to Prime Minister Hun Sen, led a delegation to defend Cambodia’s human rights track record during the UN Human Rights Council’s UPR.
Cambodia has been under fire by a number of foreign countries, including the United States and European Union member countries, over perceived democratic setbacks in the Kingdom, including the suppression of human rights and political activity.
Following threats of the revocation of Cambodia’s preferential trade status, the government has been pushing to change the perception of the international community.
Following last week’s UPR, 73 UN member states made 202 recommendations urging the government to improve its human rights track record.
Member states such as the US, France and the UK said the government should allow banned former opposition politicians to return to politics, while China said the international community “should respect the will of the Cambodian people and its government”.
Mr Remy said he was confident that he had made a positive impression during his visit to Geneva.
“I wish to inform everyone that we received very good results – our mission was successful,” Mr Remy told a group of reporters at Phnom Penh International Airport on Friday.
Mr Remy noted his delegation helped save Cambodia’s international reputation.
“Why do I say that our trip was successful? Because we defended Cambodia – we showed what we can do when we work together to promote and defend the Kingdom in the face of the United Nations,” he said. “We have not lost face.”
Mr Remy noted that last week a total of 82 countries submitted a request to make a recommendation, but only 73 did so.
“If we compare this to 2014, 76 countries gave recommendations to us, but this time only 73 countries made recommendations,” he said. “Most of those countries support and praise our country.”
He noted that during the review, countries praised the government’s achievements in reducing poverty and human trafficking.
“Countries recognised our efforts to respect democracy and human rights,” Mr Remy said. “This was a golden opportunity for our delegation to relay to the world what a democratic process is – and what economic development is. Most of their comments and advice were encouraging and supportive of our efforts.”
In a statement last week, rights group Licadho painted a different picture of the human rights situation in the Kingdom.
It said two joint reports were drafted with the International Federation for Human Rights and Forum-Asia to “catalogue state repression of human rights defenders, media and civil society, as well as the human cost of rampant land grabbing”.
It said the reports were submitted to a UN working group with specific examples of how human rights are being suppressed in the Kingdom.
“The submissions provide concrete examples illustrating how Cambodia’s human rights situation has deteriorated to a record low,” the statement said. “[It is] arguable the worst in two decades with the ongoing suppression of civil and political rights and the closing of civil society space.”
“[The government] must ensure the rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly are guaranteed,” a recommendation in the report added.