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Sar Kheng, Vitit discuss rights

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Interior minister Sar Kheng (top left) during a virtual meeting with UN's Vitit Muntarbhorn (bottom right). MOI

Sar Kheng, Vitit discuss rights

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has met with the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia to discuss several concerns, including the bail release of NagaWorld protesters and the upcoming commune council election.

According to the ministry, topics of discussion between Sar Kheng and Vitit Muntarbhorn included the work toward the commune election scheduled for June 5, the killings and disappearance of several unnamed individuals, overcrowding in prisons, refugees in Cambodia and the labour dispute concerning former employees of the NagaWorld integrated resort.

The discussion opened with Sar Kheng telling Vitit that Cambodia will organise this year’s commune election in line with the Constitution and progress of the ongoing decentralisation and deconcentration reforms.

There are 17 political parties that will participate in this year’s election, Sar Kheng said, adding that he had always instructed sub-national authorities to facilitate the activities of all political parties in the community and simplify processes.

Though it was not mentioned which murders or disappearances were the subject of discussion, Sar Kheng told Vitit that some of the cases are either still under investigation by the authorities or undergoing legal processes, while others had already been addressed by the court.

With regard to the prison situation, Sar Kheng said that of the more than 30,000 detainees across the country, over 50 per cent of them were convicted for drug offences.

“Overcrowding is a challenge in our prisons. The interior ministry has tried to build more infrastructure and is considering lifting pre-trial detention for less serious offences in order to ease the overcrowding situation,” the ministry said.

On the NagaWorld labour dispute, Sar Kheng told Vitit that he had pushed for protesters, company management and “relevant authorities to “negotiate and arrive at a compromise to end the dispute.

On the issue of refugees, Sar Kheng noted that Cambodia is the signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and had fulfilled its duties “thoroughly” in cooperation with the agency.

Yong Kim Eng, president of the NGO Peoples Centre for Development and Peace, said that as a signatory of the 1951 Refugee Convention, Cambodia has to abide by the rules of the convention and work with UNHCR on the matter.

Citing an instance, he noted that Cambodia is where Montagnard people who fled from neighbouring countries have been seeking refuge.

“I think the UNHCR and Cambodia will work well together to protect the rights to life and ensure the security, as well as other rights of Montagnard people, who are seeking safe shelter and a third country for their safety,” he said.

Vitit had not issued remarks on his meeting with Sar Kheng as of press time.

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