Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday defended the Kingdom’s rights records during his address to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Switzerland.
Mr Hun Sen’s address followed recommendations made by the United Nations during its Universal Periodic Review in January.
During the review, the United States, France and the United Kingdom said the government should reinstate the dissolved CNRP, while Japan said Cambodia had to focus on improving political inclusion and reform its judicial system.
China, on the other hand, said the international community must respect the will of the Cambodian people. All in all, a total of 198 recommendations were submitted by 73 UN member states during the UPR.
Speaking during the 41st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday, Mr Hun Sen said the media “completely portrayed the opposite” when it came to coverage related to human rights and democracy in the Kingdom.
He said last year’s national election was “free, fair and just”, with 20 registered parties and a voter turnout of 83.02 percent, noting that the figures were exceptionally high compared to other democratic countries.
Mr Hun Sen noted that western countries did not send observers to monitor the election, but nonetheless issued statements claiming the election was neither free, fair or just.
“In a universal norm, democracy must adhere to the rule of law,” Mr Hun Sen said. “Implementing democracy without the rule of law will lead to anarchy.”
“In this spirit, we wish that all actors in the democratic process act responsibly, provide constructive criticism, not incite and create hatred between races, not submit to foreign interests, especially do not sow hatred between Khmers and Khmers, which could lead to the return of civil war,” he added.
He said Cambodia is regarded as a haven for non-government organisations and that some of them were funded by undisclosed backers abroad.
He added that there are about 5,400 registered NGOs, including those that promote human rights, democracy and local development.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia has always treated NGOs as partners for development, especially for development in local and remote areas,” he said. “The RGC wants to see those NGOs abide by the law, openly and frankly engage with the government on [development] challenges.”
“[The government] does not want puppets of foreign interest [that] create turmoil and insecurity in the country,” Mr Hun Sen added.
Soeng Sen Karuna, senior investigator with the rights group Adhoc, yesterday said civil society organisations are still faced with challenges.
“Our work is being restricted by the new Law on Association and Non-Governmental Organisations and we were regularly monitored by the authorities, especially when we conducted workshops in villages,” Mr Sen Karuna said.
Regarding press freedom, Mr Hun Sen said there are 550 print publications, 148 online publications, 211 radio stations and 21 TV networks in the Kingdom.
“Cambodians have the right to receive news from all sources and types, and enjoy freedom of expression on every aspect,” he said. “As a democratic government, what we need is that all opinions should be expressed in a responsible manner to clearly distinguish between their right to express and insults, baseless accusations, slander, fake news and a call for rebellion against a legitimately elected government.”
He said that when it comes to labour rights, Cambodia is the only Asean country that has ratified more international labour conventions.
Mr Hun Sen said the minimum wage for garment workers has increased from $80 in 2013 to $182 this year, with additional social security benefits.
He said that as of May, the Labour Ministry has registered a total of 5,012 organisations, including 4,780 trade unions, 193 union federations, 29 union confederations and 10 employer associations.
Mr Hun Sen concluded his speech by saying that Cambodia has always respected human rights and promoted fundamental freedoms.
Mr Hun Sen said western countries that accuse the government of violating human rights should look themselves in the mirror.
“They always accused the Royal Government of Cambodia of violating human rights in Cambodia, even though human rights records of their own countries are filled with xenophobia, racial discrimination, mistreatment of immigrants, and etcetera,” he said. “I would like to stress that Cambodia remains committed to strengthening close cooperation and constructive partnership with all UN human rights mechanisms and relevant stakeholders in order to further enhance the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.”