Gov’t Praises Progress on Human Rights as It Drafts Reform Report on Reform

Cambodia hopes to have a draft of its first report on human rights reforms for the UN ready by 2012, Cambodia Human Rights Commit­tee deputy chairman Mak Sambath said yesterday, praising progress he said the country has made.

Less than a year ago, the government accepted all 91 recommended reforms from member states of the UN Human Rights Council during Cambodia’s Univer­sal Period Review in December 2009. The 47-member council is charged with reviewing the rights records of every UN member state once every four years. Cambodia’s re­view in 2009 was its first.

At an intergovernmental meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday, Mr Sam­bath helped apportion responsibility for the recommendations am­­ong several ministries and agencies.

He said Cambodia had achieved several of the recommendations already, including approval of laws on expropriation and corruption.

“We believe that Cambodia has done a lot. But we are not good at re­porting, and we are not good at speaking,” he said.

Several local and international groups—as well as the UN Human Rights Council’s envoy to Cambo­dia, Surya Subedi––say the space for political dissent has shrunk. Mr Subedi said as much in his last re­port to the UN in September. He ar­rived in Phnom Penh yesterday for a two-week visit, his fourth, and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Hun Sen this morning.

At yesterday’s meeting with Mr Sambath, however, some officials questioned whether Cambodia should even have accepted all 91 re­commendations in 2009.

“Those who gave us recommendations, what is the situation in their countries?” said Major General Sar­an Komsath, a deputy director in the Interior Ministry’s control de­part­ment for judicial police. The gen­eral noted Thailand in particular, where the past few years have been marked by political turmoil.

“They [the government] took the power by coup…demonstrators have died,” he said.

Asked afterward whether the government was considering dropping any of the recommendations, Mr Sambath said only that it was “looking into them.”

“Any recommendation that is to the benefit of Cambodia we will implement,” he said.

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