Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Gov’t labels shrinking freedom claims ‘fallacious’

Gov’t labels shrinking freedom claims ‘fallacious’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Ney Samol, the Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva. Facebook

Gov’t labels shrinking freedom claims ‘fallacious’

Ney Samol, the Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva, last week responded to the “fallacious allegation” that the application of the law in the Kingdom “has shrunk the space for freedom of expression”.

The criticism on Cambodia’s rights situation was expressed by the delegates of France, Australia, the UK and the EU during the general debate on the oral update by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights worldwide.

“It is ironic that the delegates requested Cambodia to strengthen democracy, human rights and the rule of law, but when [Cambodian] authorities enforced the law, they accuse us of restricting the right to freedom of expression."

“Even worse, they have taken human rights as a hostage when it comes to economic preferential treatment extended to Cambodia,” he said.

At the 41st Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council held last Monday, Rita French of the UK delegation said Kem Sokha “continues to be in detention without trial in Cambodia”.

“We urge Cambodia to maintain opening constructive dialogue with the EU on the Everything But Arms [EBA] trade procedure to prevent negative impacts on the most vulnerable,” she said.

Similarly, Francois Gave of the French delegation called upon Cambodia to reopen its political space and to pursue cooperation with the human rights mechanism, while Australia’s Sally Mansfield said she was concerned over the shrinking of civil society space in some countries, including the Kingdom.

Moreover, Walter Stevens of the EU delegation said the bloc had continuously called on Cambodia “to restore democracy by releasing opposition leader Sokha and reinstating political rights for all opposition members”.

Responding to the criticism, Samol said: “All citizens are equally treated before the law regardless of their political status or their past. A person is legally accountable not because of who he is but what offences he has committed.”

Samol further explained that individuals were duty bound to exercise their rights responsibly in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

He reiterated that “Cambodia contributed to numerous UN peacekeeping and humanitarian actions in many countries, namely the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Sudan, South Sudan, Cyprus and Lebanon”.

With regard to the EU’s preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement, Samol said Cambodia needed aid and assistance but the country’s sovereignty could not be compromised.

“Aid could not be taken as a hostage at the expense of sovereignty. If the heat is too hot to withstand, we will get out of the kitchen,” he concluded.

A week earlier, Samol responded to concerns raised by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedoms of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and Rhona Smith, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia.

Kaye and Smith had previously said they were “concerned about the escalating trend of suppression by the Cambodian government of dissenting opinions in what appears to be an attempt to intimidate or silence political opinion”.

The pair said they were concerned over the use of criminal law to target free speech, including that which is online.

But Samol said it had often been observed that, in the eyes of the Special Rapporteurs, the Cambodian government was presumed guilty until proven innocent whenever it took action to enforce the law.

Even “a tiny action” from the government “operated as a shield and not a sword”, he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Ice cream, noodles flagged over carcinogen

    The General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) has identified three types of instant noodles and ice cream trademarks originating from Thailand, Vietnam and France that are suspected to contain ethylene oxide, which poses a cancer risk to consumers. The general department has

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Exclusive interview with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU

    CAMBODIA is hosting the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings this week with top officials from the US, China, and Russia and other countries in the region slated to attend and to meet with face-to-face with their counterparts on the sidelines. In

  • Rise in Thai air routes to Siem Reap fuels travel hopes

    Local tourism industry players are eager for regional airline Bangkok Airways Pcl’s resumption of direct flight services between the Thai capital and Siem Reap town on August 1 – home of Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park – which is expected to boost the growth rate of

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’