Rights Blamed in UN Setback

Cambodia loses its bid to win a seat on the Security Council.

2012.10.19
un-security-council-vote-305 Countries vote for five states to become non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council at a General Assembly session in New York, Oct. 18, 2012.
AFP Photo

Cambodia has failed in its bid to become a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council in a defeat the opposition attributed to the country’s poor human rights record.

In a U.N. General Assembly vote for five new rotating members of the powerful committee on Thursday, Cambodia lost to South Korea for the Asia-Pacific seat.

Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Cambodia would try again next term for a seat on the council, which consists of five veto-wielding permanent members and 10 that serve two-year terms.

“We congratulate South Korea even though we didn’t win,” he said, thanking the 43 countries that voted for Cambodia. South Korea garnered 149 votes.

He said Cambodia had made a good showing by forcing South Korea into a second round of voting, after another competitor Bhutan lost out in the first round. The three vied for one seat up for grabs in the Asia-Pacific category.

“We knew that we were competing with South Korea which is a giant country compared to Cambodia. They are way better off than us financially and they also have many friends.”

Human rights

But critics of the government in Phnom Penh said that Cambodia lost its chance to join the body because of a lack of protection for human rights under Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

“This goes to show that Cambodia has many faults concerning the respect of human rights, democracy, and a lack of free and fair elections, and judicial reforms,” opposition Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said.

These factors had contributed to Cambodia’s failure to draw enough support from the United Nations and international community, he said.

Cambodia had campaigned heavily for the seat since announcing its bid in January 2011, winning the support of the nine other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

But international rights groups lobbied against letting Cambodia join the body, which carries prime responsibility in the U.N. for maintaining international peace and security.

“A country that is neither at peace with its citizens nor respectful of their rights is in a poor position to contribute to international peace,” the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights said in a statement last week on the situation of human rights in Cambodia.

A disappointment

Independent analyst Sok Touch commented that he was disappointed Cambodia had lost a key chance to take on an international role by engaging in the U.N.’s affairs and that it should learn from this year’s failure.

“Cambodia must try harder because Cambodia has achieved many good things, such as humanitarian missions in Africa, and succeeded in ending its civil war,” he said.

South Korea and the four other countries who won seats in Thursday’s vote—Rwanda, Argentina, Australia, and Luxembourg—will begin their two-year terms on January 1, replacing Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal, and South Africa.

The council comprises five permanent members who have veto power—China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.—and 10 non-permanent members, five of which are switched out each year.

Reported by Sok Serey for RFA’s Khmer service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

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