Cambodian government officials have rejected a report by a United Nations expert pushing for electoral reforms and accusing the authorities of rights violations over economic land concessions.
They said that the report by Surya Subedi, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, does not paint an accurate picture of the current status of human rights in the country.
Subedi warned in the report that Cambodia may plunge into violence if it does not reform the current electoral system to allow for fair and free elections.
He also said that the human costs of economic land concessions in the country have been high, adding that the absence of proper consultation and negotiation with the people affected when granting such concessions has been a major concern.
Om Yin Tieng, head of the government’s Human Rights Committee said Subedi was taking a biased approach to the situation in Cambodia, accusing him of siding with the country’s political opposition and civil society.
“Subedi should work as an adviser to the opposition instead of as the U.N. Rapporteur,” he said.
“The situation of human rights in Cambodia is not as bad as what he wrote in his report.”
Phay Siphan, spokesperson for the Council of Ministers, also dismissed Subedi’s findings, calling the information “outdated” and saying it did not reflect the “positive developments of human rights in Cambodia.”
“The government has been promoting democracy, human rights, and land reforms with great success,” he said.
But Subedi’s report received praise from Cambodia’s political opposition and nongovernmental organization (NGO) communities, which said that the government should stop denying the problems it has caused and work together to solve them.
Rong Chhun, head of the Cambodian Independent Teacher’s Association, hailed Subedi’s report as highlighting “much-needed truth.”
“The rights to assembly and expression, and the rights to housing and agricultural land, have been threatened by the government’s economic land concessions,” he said.
Yim Sovan, Member of Parliament for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, also expressed support for Subedi’s report.
“The government has forced villagers from their homes and land for development without proper compensation,” he said.
“The government has to be responsible for the violation of human rights in this country and should not try to make any pretext or excuse to cover up the situation.”
Tools of repression
Opposition Human Rights Party MP Ou Channrith said that the government has used the very institutions meant to protect the rights of the people as tools to stifle them.
“The government has used the armed forces and judicial system to threaten and suppress the opposition party, civil society, workers, and citizens,” he said.
Subedi’s report is to be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva at its upcoming September meeting.
In the report, the Special Rapporteur detailed "major flaws" in the administration of elections in Cambodia and called for "urgent and longer-term reforms" to give Cambodians confidence in the electoral process and in the National Election Committee, which organizes and manages polls.
Reported by Touch Yuthea for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Yanny Hin. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.