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Cambodia’s ambassador says her comment is an abuse of the UN Human Rights Council
PHNOM PENH—Cambodia’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva on June 19 responded in strong terms to comments made by the United Kingdom (UK) to the effect that the Cambodian government should restore democracy in the country.
Speaking during the General Debate of the Human Rights Council on June 19, Rita French, UK international ambassador for human rights, said, “We urge Cambodia to take further steps to restore democracy and freedom of expression.” She did not elaborate.
To this, Ambassador and Permanent Representative An Sokkhoeurn retorted, “Cambodia cherishes the freedom of expression in line with the laws.
"The arrogant act of the UK delegation constitutes a crystal-clear manifestation of politicization in the work of human rights and abuse of this august Council,” he said. “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.”
Sokkhoeurn added that Cambodia has more than 1,000 printed and online media, television and radio stations that publish and broadcast without censorship. Moreover, the country is home to more than 8 million Facebook user accounts on which people can freely share their opinions, he said.
Rita French’s observation follows several incidents as Kem Sokha—leader of the opposition party Cambodia National Rescue Party dissolved by the Supreme Court prior to the 2017 national election—is on trial.
Between January and June, the Cambodian authorities have detained 15 people on political charges, with a further 32 held on what the NGO Human Rights Watch has called “politically motivated charges.”
On April 9, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court ordered the detention of Sovann Rithy and the revocation of his news site TVFB’ media license for having accurately quoted comments made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in a speech.
In a statement on June 3, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet wrote that the UN Human Rights Office had documented the arrest of 30 individuals, including six women and a 14-year-old girl, for public comments and social media posts related to COVID-19. A number of them were charged with spreading “fake news” or “false information,” for incitement to commit felony, or for plotting against the government, Bachelet said.
The 43rd session of the Human Rights Council is being held June 15 through 23. Scheduled to take place last March, it was postponed to this month due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.