UN Rights Envoy to Visit Cambodia in Wake of Deadly Crackdown

Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi at a lecture to university students in Phnom Penh on May 21, 2013.
U.N. Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Cambodia Surya Subedi at a lecture to university students in Phnom Penh on May 21, 2013.

The U.N.’s human rights monitor for Cambodia is set to visit the country next week in the wake of a violent crackdown by security forces on workers’ strikes and opposition protests which the government has stoutly defended in the face of criticism from the world body.

The announcement of Special Rapporteur Surya Subedi’s trip came as the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) threatened to restart mass protests that have been halted since the bloody crackdown last week.

Police on Friday shot dead at least four people during a strike by garment factory workers in the outskirts of Phnom Penh and the next day, security forces violently dispersed supporters of the CNRP from Freedom Park in the capital.

The CNRP had been holding daily protests at the park calling for Prime Minister Hun Sen to resign and hold new elections following July polls which had been tainted by allegations of fraud and other irregularities.

The opposition protests that drew tens of thousands to the streets have posed a major challenge to the government alongside strikes by garment and footwear workers demanding a higher minimum salary.

Subedi’s visit will be his first since before the July elections, in which Hun Sen was declared victor by the government-appointed National Election Committee despite CNRP’s calls for an independent probe into fraud and other charges which the party said had robbed it of a win.

According to a statement by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the six-day fact-finding mission which begins Sunday is part of an ongoing program of monitoring progress on human rights in the country.

“My upcoming mission is part of my ongoing assessment of the situation of human rights in Cambodia,” Subedi said, according to the statement.

During the visit he is expected to meet with Hun Sen and other members of the government as well as human rights defenders and representatives from civil society organizations, it said.

The announcement followed remarks by OHCHR spokesman Rupert Colville Tuesday expressing “deep alarm” at the “disproportionate use of force” by law enforcement officials in the crackdown and raising concerns about 23 people who had been arrested.

Cambodia’s foreign minister Hor Namhong defended the government’s actions against demonstrators at a press conference on Wednesday, telling reporters it was protesters who had broken the law.

"The demonstrations abused the law," he said, according to Reuters news agency.

"The public generally applauds the decision by the government to halt the violent demonstrations," he said, insisting that the government had exercised restraint for months.

The Ministry of Interior had also issued a ban on all demonstrations in Phnom Penh “until public order and security is restored.”

Meanwhile, the authorities allowed family members and physicians to meet for the first time Wednesday with 23 protesters arrested in the crackdown, following concerns raised by rights groups earlier this week about their whereabouts.

The 23, including garment workers and activists, have been accused of stirring up the violence and causing damage to property.

Leaders of the CNRP, which supported the garment worker strikes, are also facing charges, with party president Sam Rainsy and his deputy Kem Sokha scheduled to appear in court next week for “inciting unrest.”

CNRP protests

The CNRP has said it will restart its protests before the end of the month, announcing plans for Sam Rainsy and Kem Sokha to tour three provinces this week to drum up support for the rallies.

CNRP leaders also hope to meet with Subedi during his visit to discuss last week’s violence, according to a party spokesman.

Party leaders did not give a date for when their protests will resume, with Kem Sokha indicating it could be done later in the month.

“We can’t delay until this end of this month,” he told RFA.

“Freedom Park is where we express our views. We hope that late this month there will be a gathering,” he said.

In the meantime, he and Sam Rainsy will travel to Battambang, Siem Reap, and Banteay Meanchey from Friday through Sunday, Kem Sokha said.  

“We will be meeting our supporters and villagers to inform them about our stance because some of them haven’t received any updated information.”  

CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the party hoped that Subedi’s presence in the country next week would help ease tensions.

“We will inform him about the recent brutal crackdown by armed forces under the CPP’s control in which many people were killed and arrested. This is a serious human rights violation,” he said.

“We will discuss about election reforms and reelection which is the only peaceful solution to avoiding a political crisis,” he said.

As hundreds of shuttered factories reopened and garment workers returned to work this week, teachers in 20 schools across the country have started a strike to demand higher pay.

Striking Cambodian teachers display signs calling for higher salaries, Jan. 8, 2014.
Striking Cambodian teachers display signs calling for higher salaries, Jan. 8, 2014. RFA

Cambodian Independent Teachers Association (CITA) president Rong Chhun, who also leads an umbrella organization representing striking factory workers, said some 700 teachers were taking part in the strikes, gathering outside the schools and displaying banners calling for higher wages.

“We request the government and the ministry of education pay attention to provide solutions to the teachers’ demands,” said Rong Chhun, who is head of the umbrella Cambodian Confederation of Unions.

Teachers told RFA they had faced threats from school principals warning them they would be arrested if they continued with their strike.

The strikers are demanding salaries of 1 million riel (U.S. $250) per month—more than three times that of the average primary school instructor.

Reported by RFA’s Khmer Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Rachel Vandenbrink.

Comments (4)

Maco Khme rin Denver, CO

from denver

UN Rights Envoy to Visit Cambodia in Wake of Deadly Crackdown-

Thank you UN. You are the only hope we got! Your present is a one step closer for Khmer’s democracy. As long as UN is aware and involves, it will put pressure on Hen Sun’s gov’t. However, justice will need to be served. UN will need to hold those committed crime against human rights accountable and bring them to justice. May be this is a flood of “Gateway” for more investigation into CPP’s gov’t organ of corruption. CNRP is military powerless but it has the ultimate power behind its force, it calls “The Power of the People by the People for the People” and at the end the wheel power of the people will always prevail. The CPP is well aware that they are sitting on power house of cards. CNRP and the Khmer’s people please continue to put pressure and the wind power of Khmer’s people will blow the CPP’s house of cards gov’t over.

Denver, CO

Jan 10, 2014 02:28 PM

Anonymous Reader

international country have role to bring country peace and justice for democracy in Cambodia. as major democracy people wake up, united against the communist suppress freedom, justice, standard living, force land eviction, human right abuse, and worst corruption government in whole Asian country. please, help, join, our crying for justice.

Jan 09, 2014 09:18 PM

Khmer Freedom Actions

Read this article from this link....it states the king has to declared "State of Emergency " in order for Government to use such harsh crack down on its people within the Cambodia constitution law.

Since king never declare it, Hun Sen has majorly broken the law, in affect he has murdered those workers. In other country, an impeachment process to kick the prime minister out to face jail term already alongside with those CPP ministers that went along on these criminal acts.


Please share this link and news to all Khmer people that love and honor justice, and freedom.

Jan 09, 2014 02:17 AM

Anonymous Reader

"Cambodia’s foreign minister Hor Namhong defended the government’s actions against demonstrators at a press conference on Wednesday, telling reporters it was protesters who had broken the law."

Really? What law were they broken, would you care to point that out? This old fart is a traitor. He is a traitor. He even betrayed his sister when he was Khmer Rouge prison chief. He had to order his sister kill to save his own skin and to show his loyalty to Ankar. What a coward.

Jan 08, 2014 11:52 PM

Anonymous Reader

from USA

International Community, especially UN, all blinded, they should realize that the current Gov is illegal and Hun Sen and his CPP clan were forcing the King to reconize that their act were constitutional. This old dog-need to shutup and face the UN-Khmer Rouge court-

Jan 10, 2014 03:11 PM





More Listening Options

View Full Site