Officials said they would implement some but not all of the recommendations put forth at the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on September 25 by special rapporteur Rhona Smith.
Chin Malin, the spokesperson for the Cambodia Human Rights Committee, told The Post that the authorities would likely not apply several “politically motivated” recommendations including the release of Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha and reinstating former CNRP commune and district councillors to their seats.
While the Kingdom welcomed the recommendations and “many” were being considered by the government, Malin said Cambodian lawmakers would have the final say in whether they are to be instituted.
He said as an independent state, Cambodia had the right to ignore recommendations which conflict with its laws.
“Whether the recommendations are applied or not is a matter of sovereignty. Only the state can determine which recommendations can be implemented and which are per the law.
“Some of the recommendations cannot be implemented because they contradict the rule of law,” Malin said on Monday.
He said the authorities anticipated for some of the recommendations to be politically motivated since Smith had met with CNRP sympathisers and “anti-government civil society organisations” (CSOs) before the report was released.
“Just as she met with [the government] to discuss progress in human rights and detailed them in her report when she met with former CNRP and anti-government CSOs, she received complaints and she highlighted those in the report too. That is normal for the rapporteur,” he said.
Malin’s remarks came after Smith addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.
Smith raised concern over respect for Cambodian citizens’ civil rights. She called on the government to ensure a fully inclusive society based on democratic principles and human rights.
“The votes and the voice of the 42 per cent of the population who voted for the CNRP had been denied. The release of opposition leader Kem Sokha from pre-trial detention would ensure his right to a fair trial and the recent arrests and summonses of over 100 former [CNRP] members were vague and unclear.
“It is time to reset the approach to rights and freedom in Cambodia and ensure that all rights and freedoms voluntarily accepted by the government are enjoyed by everyone in the country. Human rights are, by definition, about people. Not politics,” Smith said.
Representatives of the EU and Britain echoed Smith’s call at the UN, while representatives of China and Venezuela praised the government’s progress and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s sovereign status.
Ney Samol, the Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the UN Office in Geneva, responded to Smith’s report by saying that it had failed to reflect an accurate picture of Cambodia as a whole.
He said Cambodians lived peacefully and happily, and that individuals and political parties enjoyed the right to practise their civil rights per existing laws and regulations.
“Incitement, treasonous acts, the call for a coup to topple the legitimate government are not a political right,” he stressed.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan expressed his regret at the report and considered it to be an act of aggression and interference in Cambodian internal affairs.
Siphan accused Smith of overstepping her authority as the UN’s official representative on human rights in Cambodia.
“She should embrace the government as a partner rather than play a biased role as a judge or politician in control of Cambodian citizens’ fate,” he said.
Soeng Sen Karuna, a spokesman for NGO Adhoc, said that Smith’s report accurately depicted the realities of life in Cambodia as the organisation had studied the issues and compiled data on them.
Sen Karuna warned that failure to accept the recommendations would invite more criticism for the Kingdom’s human rights record.
“We can already see the creation of policies by the US Congress and the European Parliament. The EU is moving forward with rescinding the “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement and we know that the trade preferences will impact the Cambodian economy and affects citizens’ livelihoods, especially workers,” he said.