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Cambodia Hits Back at International Criticism of Rong Chhun Jailing

Phnom Penh: The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia to the United Nations in Geneva, has slammed what it calls the “personal views” of UN human rights officials who have criticized the recent conviction of union leader, Rong Chhun.

The UNHCR released a statement on Tuesday, quoting a number of special rapporteurs “sharply criticizing” Cambodia for sentencing Chhun to two years in prison for comments he made about Cambodia’s handling of a border dispute with Vietnam. One rapporteur is quoted as saying that the prison term is “neither justified nor proportionate," and that “human rights defenders are being jailed for acts that are protected by their rights to freedom” under Cambodian law. Another says “human rights defenders should never be arrested, detained or convicted for their efforts to protect the human rights of others."

But Cambodia’s Permanent Mission to the UN, has now hit back. An Sokkhoeurn says the special rapporteurs have taken their eyes off the bigger picture. He described them as “so-called experts”, not being UN staff members, and only serving in their personal capacity. He says they are self-representing as judges in what is an internal judicial affair of a sovereign state. He believes their statements amount to professional misconduct and breach the UN’s code of conduct.

His statement goes onto say that the special rapporteurs’ claim that the conviction of Rong Chhun was not justified or proportionate, does not attend to factual and legal aspects. He describes Rong Chhun’s border-related comments as “fabricated” and not equal to freedom of speech. He says the territorial matter with Vietnam is both sensitive and complicated, and must be resolved by recognised experts, and not be “instrumentalized” for political manipulation. He says affiliation with an NGO should never be a licence to break the law with impunity.

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