Prime Minister Hun Sen deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, not the scorn of neighbors who don’t understand Cambodia’s human rights situation, the head of a government committee on human rights said on Monday.
“It is time, when it comes to the human rights sector, to give him the so-called Nobel Peace Prize,” said Keo Remy, chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, at a news conference in Phnom Penh on Monday.
Commenting in reaction to a stinging report issued by the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights last week that spotlighted an ongoing government crackdown on opposition parties and civil society, Mr. Remy said the group, and its Malaysian chair Charles Santiago, were out of line for weighing in on Cambodia’s political situation.
“Right now, I am reacting in order to respond to him because there is no other options beside holding this conference in order to prove that he is wrong for the second time,” Mr. Remy said, referencing Mr. Santiago’s continued criticism after a defensive Foreign Ministry statement released on Wednesday.
“When we went to educate people, as well as students at universities, we have never talked about other Asean member countries,” said Mr. Remy, whose committee has mostly stayed quiet amid the crackdown.
“Remember that when it comes to human rights, it can’t be said that this is the level of standard for human rights that each country has to follow,” he said. “When it comes to human rights, it depends on the tradition, culture and economic situation of people in the country.”
Mr. Hun Sen’s regime deserves praise for the dual accomplishments of rescuing the country from Pol Pot and subduing the Khmer Rouge through his win-win policy, according to Mr. Remy, a longtime opposition party member and prime ministerial critic who joined the CPP in 2008.
But instead of giving Mr. Hun Sen the credit he deserved through the Nobel, or a similar prize, “these two points were forgotten, twisted, looked down upon,” he added.
Though Mr. Hun Sen has not won the annual award bestowed in Norway to leaders who have worked for fraternity between nations, his youngest son Hun Many garnered the far lesser-known Gusi Peace Prize in Manila in 2015 for his work in “Youth Leadership and Humanitarianism.”
Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, was unmoved by Mr. Remy’s assessment or the work of his committee.
“This so-called ‘Human Rights Committee’ is really a bad joke on the Cambodian people and a few gullible observers in the international community who think that having a nice looking letterhead means something,” he said in an email.
“This Nobel prize suggestion is so ridiculous that perhaps Remy deserves a prize for best song and dance performance for his political supper.”
The Asean report “has hit close to home with the CPP plans to destroy the political opposition through intimidation, rights abuses, and bogus legal charges prosecuted in CPP-controlled kangaroo courts,” he added.
(Additional reporting by Ben Paviour)
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