The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday reiterated concerns conveyed by its rights envoy Rhona Smith during her visit to the Kingdom earlier this month regarding judicial proceedings against former opposition party members.
“OHCHR Cambodia is following with concern the situation of former CNRP officials who have been summoned or detained by police or the courts,” OHCHR said in a Facebook post.
“As the Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith said during her recent mission, there is a need to change the political culture to one that focuses on issues rather than persons,” it added. “This, together with judicial protection of the freedom of expression, would help overcome the challenges of the current political situation for the benefit of all Cambodians.”
The OHCHR was referring to the questioning of 26 former CNRP officials summoned by Battambang Provincial Court after they were suspected of supporting a boycott campaign during last year’s national election and supporting the nomination of former opposition leader Sam Rainsy as its acting president.
CPP spokesman Sok Eysan yesterday said the Kingdom’s courts have the right to question anyone suspected of breaking the law, especially those are suspected of going against a 2017 Supreme Court ruling banning CNRP activities, including supporting the nomination of Mr Rainsy.
“If they are not guilty, please do not be afraid,” Mr Eysan said. “We are making efforts to strengthen democracy as well as the rule of law.”
Political analyst Lao Mong Hay yesterday said he supports OHCHR’s statement and that the government should heed Ms Smith’s words.
“We need to stop our practice of personality assassination and focus on dealing with and addressing issues and policies instead,” Mr Mong Hay said.
The OHCHR statement followed a US State Department statement on Friday expressing concerns over the same matter.
“We urge the Cambodian government to remove undue political restrictions on all persons in Cambodia and to release those prisoners who have been arbitrarily or unlawfully detained, including Kem Sokha,” the statement said. “We also urge the Cambodian government to support genuine multi-party democracy and ensure its actions and laws comply with Cambodia’s human rights obligations under international law.”