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Cambodia Mission Urges the Special Rapporteurs Must Work on the Basis of Facts and Accountability Rather than Politicization

GENEVA: The Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia in Geneva abhors the misleading, irresponsible and unfounded remarks of four special rapporteurs as to health and legal measures against an unlawful month-long strike.

First, Protocols of Cambodia’s Covid-19 are in full compliance with national and international law because they are in the interest of public safety and order,as well as protection of public health and the rights and freedoms of others. All rights are not unlimited. Unlike some elements in favor of weaponizing human rights, Cambodian authorities always adhere to professionalism and non-politicization of the public health response.

Second, the allegation “hundreds of striking workers reportedly still do not have their results or clarity on when they will be released from quarantine” is truly indicative that the mandate holders solely rely upon one-sided and unverified accounts. It’s an allegation. And a grave violation of the “Code of Conduct for Special Procedures Mandate-Holders”. They are invited to forward concrete proof to Cambodian authorities for verification according to established rules. Cambodian authorities’ written instructions are loud and clear.

Third, the claim that the strike is lawful is erroneous. Workers and unions have right to strike, but core requirements must be fulfilled before it can be legally staged. According to the Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labor Organization, the legality of a strike must be declared by an independent body other than the Government. The truth is that the strike was declared illegal by the Phnom Penh Court of First Instance on 16 December 2021. Notwithstanding, the authorities have exercised utmost restraint and repeatedly called on the striking employees to return to peaceful negotiations in good faith, to take the Covid-19 tests and to cease their month-long unlawful protests, which threaten security, public order and safety, and public health.

Fourth, special rapporteurs’ reference to the Covid-19 test results is misleading. The fact is that at least 58 protesters have tested positive since 28 January 2022. This proves that the testing regime applied for the protesters is timely, legitimate, necessary. WHO Representative to Cambodia has recently stated, “It is now even more important than ever to reduce transmission of the Omicron variant in the community so that we can protect our health system from being overwhelmed and so that we can avoid any strict lockdown….Now is not time for us to let our guard down in Cambodia.”

Fifth, the authorities do not restrict the strike in accordance with Labor Law. If public space is occupied to execute the assembly, it becomes demonstration, which must be held in accordance with Law on Peaceful Demonstration. Like other democracies, Cambodia has a dedicated square allocated for those wishing to voice their grievances. This is to guarantee the continuity of the freedom of peaceful assembly.

In conclusion, the so-called human rights experts, being not the UN staff but serving in their individual capacity, always feel that things should have been acted differently based on their rights theory. It is imperative that they take into account national particularities and work on the basis of facts and accountability rather than politicization.

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