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Cambodian UN Ambassador refutes human rights allegations

Brian Badzmierowski / Khmer Times Wed, March 3, 2021

Cambodia’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the UN Office at Geneva An Sokkhoeurn. Facebook

Cambodia’s Representative of the Permanent Mission to the United Nations Office in Geneva on Monday refuted claims made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that civic space is shrinking in Cambodia.

On February 26, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bacehelet addressed the 46th Session of the Human Rights Council about human rights issues throughout the globe and called out Cambodia.

She said: “I am particularly concerned about the severe shrinking of civic space in Cambodia, where increasing and disproportionate legislative and administrative measures limit the rights to free expression, peaceful assembly, association and information, among others.”

Bacehelet said she was also concerned about crackdowns on peaceful protests which resulted in criminal charges and punishments for activists in countries across the region, including Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and the Philippines.

An Sokkhoeurn, Cambodia’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN at Geneva, responded in a speech to the council on Monday and defended Cambodia’s human rights record.

Sokkhoeurn expressed disappointment that Bacehelet’s report did not include information about Cambodia’s “renewal of the operational presence of the OHCHR’s field office last December, but entertained allegations based on one-sided reports”.

He said almost 2,000 media outlets are allowed to operate without censorship.

“Cambodia cherishes professional journalists who neither breach the rights of others nor twist the facts,” he said.

Sokkhoeurn said close to 12 million Facebook accounts, representing 70 percent of the population, have continued posting critical views freely on public affairs and services.

Concerning the shrinking of civic space, Sokkhoeurn said the “dynamic and unhindered operation” of almost 6,000 civil society organisations (CSOs) refuted that claim.

He said: “Unlawful or mercenary protests pressuring judiciary or disrupting public order are not a constitutional exercise of peaceful assembly.”

In response to punishments handed out to those accused of breaking the law, Sokkhoeurn said: “All legislative and administrative measures are enforced within the boundaries of the law”.

He added that anyone charged with a crime has the right to defend themselves in court.

SOURCE: Khmer Times, Cambodia Wed, March 3, 2021

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