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Cambodia’s Assorted Rights Praised at UN Debate in Geneva

GENEVA: A total of 39 state delegations attended an Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur (SR) on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, held on Wednesday, 5 October 2022, in Geneva, Switzerland.

According to a press statement issued by the Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, An Sokkhoeurn, 30 of the attending state delegations spoke in favor of the efforts, progress and achievements Cambodia has realized in promoting and protecting human rights on many fronts. They also urged the SR’s working methods to be balanced and constructive, taking into account the perspective of the government and national circumstances.

They commended the successful response to Covid-19, particularly the near-universal vaccination seen in the country, as well as the social protection initiatives implemented in support of women, job-suspended workers and vulnerable groups. Some also welcomed Cambodia’s successful holding of communal elections with nine political parties having won the communal council seats, and the efforts to ensure that these elections were held in a free, fair, orderly, peaceful and transparent manner.

The remaining nine delegations gave critical comments urging Cambodia to broaden civic and political space, including further respect for freedom of expression, media and peaceful assembly, and independence of judiciary. Concurrently, almost all of these delegations welcomed the Kingdom’s ongoing cooperation with the UN human rights mechanisms, including the facilitation of the SR’s recent visit to the country, and progress on economic, social and cultural rights, particularly on a health-related front.

They also positively noted the efforts to strengthen social protection systems, the advanced positioning towards the LGBTIQ community, and the ongoing work on preventing gender-based violence and furthering disability reform areas. Some stated the partial return to political pluralism following the local elections in 2022, progress toward establishment of the national human rights institution, and the striving of promoting fundamental freedom.

During the debate, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, An Sokkhoeurn, shared some of his observations on the SR’s report. He said that the permanent mission notes that the report recognizes, in a brief and narrow scope, certain positive elements, however, it feels regret that the report does not "set the record straight" on many fronts “due to incomplete and unbalanced integration of factual and legal accounts of various bodies of the state provided.”

Ambassador An Sokkhoeurn also states that the SR’s report contained “subjective and selective particulars” and lacked concrete proof, which compromised the report’s credibility and impartiality. The Permanent Representative further challenged the SR on a number of other topics, such as his grievance over single party rule in Cambodia, which disregards “the fact that the power in Cambodia is constitutionally and democratically elected,” and the SR’s criticism of mass trials against opposition leaders, which “did not assess the details received with rigor and [a] de-politicized lens.”

The Permanent Representative concluded his remarks by underlining that human rights are rarely about perfection, rather a "marathon and progress." He said fair and moderate observers view Cambodia “as a half full glass,” as evidenced by the overwhelming majority of delegations in the council speaking in favor of Cambodia’s achievements in promoting human rights.

Ambassador An Sokkhoeurn reiterated Cambodia’s firm commitment, in cooperation with all partners, to promote and protect human rights within the rule of law, to advance sustainable development, to uphold hard-won peace, and to pursue an irreversible democratic journey with pluralism, including the parliamentary elections next year, in a free, fair, orderly, peaceful and transparent manner.

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