Cambodian Human Rights Committee president Keo Remy said the human rights situation in the Kingdom is good compared to neighbouring countries, as well as many others in Asia, Europe and even the US.
His remarks were made at the 70th anniversary of the International Human Rights Day on Monday. The event, held at the Diamond Island Exhibition and Convention Center in Phnom Penh, was presided over by Senate president Say Chhum.
It was attended by nearly 3,000 people, including members of the Senate and National Assembly, civil servants, members of the armed forces, community representatives, and representatives from national and international organisations.
Remy said there is no country in the world in which human rights are perfectly respected and cited recent criticisms of Europe and Australia over their treatment of refugees and asylum seekers as examples.
“In the EU, there are still human rights issues. There are accusations about how refugees are received. This point is lacking. Australia also has serious issues regarding refugees and asylum seekers who were sent to islands in the Pacific, like Manus and Nauru,” he said.
Remy also claimed that many Cambodians were wrong in their perception of the US as a bastion of democracy and human rights, saying that it also experiences many problems in those areas.
He cited US prison statistics, saying that the 2.2 million incarcerated adults in the US comprise 25 per cent of the global prison population, with a disproportionate amount of them being ethnic minority groups.
“The human rights situation in Cambodia is very good compared to neighbouring countries and others in Asia, Europe and the US. Our situation is good,” he stressed.
At the same event, Senate president Say Chhum said that historically, human rights were not respected during times of war, turmoil and social insecurity in Cambodia.
Chhum said Cambodians especially suffered during the Democratic Kampuchea regime between 1975-1979, in which the Khmer Rouge devastated the nation’s education, health and judicial systems.
It also attacked human rights, religion, traditions and culture in the Kingdom. He said Cambodians never dared to express their views, demand justice or the respect of human rights during the Khmer Rouge era.
“The leadership of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who ended the entire civil war in Cambodia with his win-win policy in 1998 and prevented the colour revolution movement that attempted to create a war in Cambodia, has brought peace and development in all sectors to the nation today”, Chhum said.
Also on December 10, roughly 500 participants, comprising citizens and civil society groups, celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at an event held at Phnom Penh’s Freedom Park.
Police and security forces watched the gathering, which was held after an initially planned march was banned by authorities citing public order concerns.
One organiser of the event, the Cambodian Youth Network vice-president, Sar Mory, said the celebration served to promote basic human rights and democracy across Cambodia.
“Land grabbing and human rights abuses are often involved in development projects. Many people’s land has been grabbed, and when they protest, they are abused once again . . . the right of peaceful expression has also severely decreased in recent years,” he claimed.
In its Facebook page, the US Embassy in Cambodia marked the occasion by urging the government to restore independent media and drop all charges against political prisoners.
The post featured an image of former Cambodia National Rescue Party leader Kem Sokha, currently under house arrest after being released on bail following treason charges.
US Embassy spokesman Arend C Zwartjes was not available for comment.