Cambodian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva An Sokkhoeurn on Friday slammed the UK delegation for not following the agenda and politicising rights issues.
Sokkhoeurn was addressing the UN Human Rights Council during a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.
The UK delegation was led by Rita French, the Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva and International Ambassador for Human Rights. While also raising concerns on the rights situation in several countries, French took particular note of Cambodia.
“We urge Cambodia to take further steps to restore democracy and freedom of expression. We appreciate cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and technical work with OHCHR [Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights],” she said.
Sokkhoeurn said French’s speech was wide off the mark, with the Council’s agenda “hijacked for political purpose”.
He pointed out that Cambodia was not included in the agenda and its situation was due to be discussed at the Council’s 45th session on Advisory Service and Technical Assistance for Cambodia.
“The arrogant act of the UK delegation constitutes a crystal clear manifestation of politicisation in the work of human rights and abuse of this august Council.
“This practice must be refrained and ceased if we are to uphold credibility and effectiveness of this body in promotion and protection of human rights,” he said.
Sokkhoeurn said Cambodia places a high value on freedom of expression in line with the laws. This, he stressed, is evident in the operations of more than 1,000 new and existing traditional and digital media outlets in the country.
Some of the outlets, he said, which are known for being critical of the government, are free to broadcast or publish their news without prior censorship.
Cambodia also boasts eight million Facebook accounts, some of which are popular and serve as platforms to share public opinions and criticism.
“Political discourse and comments on public affairs with [intended] insults, hatred, incitement to commit a felony, call for rebellion against the democratically elected government, and spread of fake news and disinformation does not equate to freedom of expression.
“They are also condemned in European countries,” he said.
The exercise of freedom of expression, Sokkhoeurn said, carries with it special duties, responsibility and limitation provided by law, as enshrined in Cambodia’s Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and International Co venant on Civil and Political Rights.
He also reminded the Council that Cambodia was the first country to host the OHCHR country office in 1993. This makes the office the world’s oldest.
“This indicates Cambodia’s unwavering commitment to the promotion, protection, and respect for human rights,” he stressed.
Sokkhoeurn said Cambodia values multi-stakeholder partnerships through participatory and rewarding exchanges with mutual respect to enhance the quality of technical cooperation and human rights standards on the ground.