UN Envoy to Gauge Progress of Rights, Reforms in Cambodia

cambodia-subedi-presser-jan-2014.jpg UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi speaks to reporters in Phnom Penh, Jan. 16, 2014.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, will visit the country next week to assess the government’s progress in improving human rights and democratic and land reforms, his office said Wednesday.

During the 10-day fact-finding mission, beginning June 15, Subedi will meet with senior members of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s administration, as well as with representatives of civil society organizations, the business community, the U.N. country team and international donors, a statement said.

Subedi is also expected to undertake field visits to gather first-hand information on the status of human rights in Cambodia during his 11th official trip to the country.

“As a follow-up to my last mission in January this year, the focus of this mission will be to further explore the progress made by the Royal Government of Cambodia towards establishing independent human rights institutions,” Subedi said.

“I also intend to use this visit to assess progress on the implementation of the recommendations made in my previous reports dealing with judiciary, parliamentary, electoral and land reform in Cambodia.”

Since his appointment in March 2009, Subedi has presented six reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council. He will present his next report to the body at its September 2014 session.

The Special Rapporteur is scheduled to hold a press conference at the end of his visit, on June 24 at the U.N. Human Rights Office in Phnom Penh.

Subedi’s last mission to Cambodia came just after security forces shot and killed at least four people in a Jan. 3 crackdown on opposition-supported strikes by garment workers demanding a higher minimum wage.

The rights envoy said then that the government action had “cast doubt” on any expectations that democracy in the country was maturing.the end of 2013, his assessment of progress on human rights in Cambodia had been “generally positive,” but the government’s suppression of protests, including the crackdown, were threatening this evaluation, he said at the time.

He had also urged Hun Sen’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) to end a political deadlock following disputed elections in July.

The CPP was declared the victor in the polls despite widespread allegations of fraud, resulting in a boycott of parliament by the elected CNRP lawmakers.

Renewed talks

The standoff is now in its 10th month following meetings between the two sides in which the CNRP demanded a shake-up of the body that organizes elections and other reforms.

Hopes for a compromise, however, were renewed Tuesday when Hun Sen agreed to opposition demands to enshrine the mandate of the government-appointed National Election Commission (NEC) in the country’s constitution.

He also agreed to grant the CNRP a license for a television station—a long-standing demand by the opposition. All stations currently operating in Cambodia are either directly or indirectly controlled by the government or ruling party.

The prime minister did not address opposition calls for an early election. In negotiations, Hun Sen has said that if the CNRP ends its boycott of parliament, he is willing to hold the next election in February 2018—five months ahead of schedule.

Three representatives from each of the two parties will meet Thursday at the Senate building in the capital Phnom Penh to further hash out Hun Sen’s proposals, CNRP lawmaker Kuy Bunroeun told RFA’s Khmer Service on Wednesday.

“The teams will work to draft an agreement in the form of a written statement,” he said.

Kuy Bunroeun welcomed Hun Sen’s statement, which party leader Sam Rainsy had called “a political turn that could end the deadlock,” but cautioned that the prime minister’s words alone would not guarantee the opposition’s return to parliament.

“As long as there is no confirmation or guarantee of an agreement between the two parties, we can’t participate in the National Assembly,” he said.

“[We won’t join] unless we have an agreement through a written statement and a political solution.”

Judicial draft laws

According to a report by the Phnom Penh Post, the opposition boycott of parliament will include the senate session Thursday at which CPP lawmakers are expected to debate three controversial judicial draft laws that passed through the lower house unopposed last month.

If passed, the bills would give the Justice Ministry and legislature greater power over the courts, including appointing officials.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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