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Cambodia’s UN Representative Hits Back at US, France

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Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, An Sokkhoeurn, has hit back at the United States and France at the 48th Session of the Human Rights Council. He has exercised his right of reply to launch a blistering attack on the French and US representatives for statements they made about the state of the kingdom’s political affairs and what they saw as a deterioration of human rights in the country.

In his right of reply, An Sokkhoeurn says criticising another country is the right of every delegation, but that criticism should be “justified, balanced, non-selective and proportionate”. He questioned whether the French and US delegations’ remarks were justified, describing them as “quite generic and not substantiated by any specific and relevant data.” He has rejected claims of a political crackdown in the kingdom, saying the “2019 amendments to the Political Party Law had paved the way for rehabilitating political rights of former opposition politicians. As a result, 26 of them had their political rights reinstated with many of them having formed six political parties to challenge the ruling party in the coming elections. Are these considered restriction of political rights?”

He went onto question whether the criticism was balanced, saying, “You stated no single word on dangerous populist rhetoric of certain opposition elements in Cambodia, whose approach is to spread fake news and maps, throw indiscriminate insults and slanders, incite racial hatred and xenophobia, and call on armed forces to rise against a people-elected government, all of which are well deplored in Western and EU countries? Your democratic icon, Mr. Sam Rainsy, was condemned in this Council in 2019 by the former Country Special Rapporteur for his defamatory language, racial incitement and provocation to overthrow a democratically-elected government.”

He also asked the French and US delegations if they believed their statements were proportionate, asking when they “inflated civil and political rights over other rights, namely right to life, survival, health, food, education and development? Are you complying with UN Resolutions affirming all human rights must be treated in a fair and equal manner on the same footing, with the same emphasis? Are a wide range of cash support schemes for vulnerable groups affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, national inoculation rollout rapidly executed with an impressive record of almost 72% of the total population of Cambodia, and gradual reopening of in-person classes in strict compliance with health measures not regarded as human rights?”

He says advocates for human rights should first start at home, stating “Sadly, one of our preachers reportedly convicted more than 40,000 individuals in 2018 and 2019 for "contempt of public officials", "participation in a group with a view to committing violent acts" and "organizing a protest without complying with notification requirements", without naming either France or the US specifically.

He concluded by saying that the advancement of all rights and fundamental freedoms is “our shared ultimate goal”. He says every country must be entitled to choose their own path and priorities, saying “Human rights must not be weaponized with double standards, as stressed by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, if we are to uphold the highest integrity and credibility of this Council.”

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